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First published in i^i^. 

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I HAVE often been asked lately if I have not observed any 
facts since 1906 which invalidated some of the arguments 
set forth in this book. On the contrary, I am more than 
ever convinced of the value of this philosophy of violence. 
I have even thought it useful to add to this reprint an 
" Apology for Violence " which I pubUshed in the Matin 
of May 18, 1908, on the day when the first edition appeared. 
This is one of those books which public opinion will 
not permit an author to improve ; I have only allowed 
myself to change a few words here and there in order to 
make certain phrases clearer. 



Introduction i 

Introduction to the First Publication . 43 

Class War and Violence 52 


Violence and the Decadence of the Middle 

Classes 74 


Prejudices against Violence . . . .100 

The Proletarian Strike . . . . .126 




The Political General Strike . . . .168 

The Ethics of Violence 205 


The Ethics of the Producers . . . . 252 




My dear Halevy — I should doubtless have left these 
studies buried in the bound volumes of a review if some 
friends, whose judgment I value, had not. thought that 
it would be a good thing to bring them before the notice 
of a wider public, as they serve to make better known 
one of the most singular social phenomena that history 
records. But it seemed to me that it would be necessary 
to give this public some additional explanations, since 
I cannot often expect to find judges as indulgent as you 
have been. 

When I published, in the Mouvement Socialiste, the 
articles which are now collected in this volume, I did not 
write with the intention of composing a book : I simply 
wrote down my reflections as they came into my mind. 
I knew that the subscribers to that review would have 
no difficulty in following me, since they were already 
famiHar with the theories, which for some years my 
friends and I had developed in its pages. But I am con- 
vinced that the readers of this book, on the contrary, 
will be very bewildered if I do not submit a kind of 
defence which will enable them to consider things from 
my own habitual point of view. In the course of our 
conversations, you have sometimes made remarks which 
fitted so well into the system of my own ideas that 


they often led me to investigate certain questions more 
thoroughly. I am sure that the reflections which I here 
submit to you, and which you have provoked, will be very 
useful to those who wish to read this book with profit. 

There are perhaps few studies in which the defects 
of my method of writing are more evident ; I have been 
frequently reproached for not respecting the rules of the 
art of writing, to which all our contemporaries submit, 
and for thus inconveniencing my readers by the disorder 
of my explanations. I have tried to render the text clearer 
by numerous corrections of detail, but I have not been 
able to make the disorder disappear. I do not wish to 
defend myself by pleading the example of great writers 
who have been blamed for not knowing how to compose. 
Arthur Chuquet, speaking of J. J. Rousseau, said : '* His 
writings lack harmony, order, and that connection of the 
parts which constitutes a unity." ^ The defects of 
illustrious men do not justify the faults of the obscure, 
and I think that it is better to explain frankly the origin 
of this incorrigible vice in my writings. 

It is only recently that the rules of the art of writing 
have imposed themselves in a really imperative way ; 
contemporary authors appear to have accepted them 
readily, because they wished to please a hurried and 
often very inattentive public, and one which is desirous 
above all of avoiding any personal investigation. These 
rules were first applied by the people who manufacture 
scholastic books. Since the aim of education has been 
to make the pupils absorb an enormous amount of 
information, it has been necessary to put into their 
hands manuals suitable to this extra rapid instruction ; 
everything has had to be presented in a form so clear, 
so logically arranged, and so calculated to dispel doubt, 
that in the end the beginner comes to believe that science 
is much simpler than our fathers supposed. In this 

* A. Chuquet, Jean Jacques Rousseau, p. 179. 


way the mind is very richly furnished in a very Httle 
time, but it is not furnished with implements which facili- 
tate individual effort. These methods have been imitated 
by poHtical publicists and by the people who attempt 
to popularise knowledge.^ Seeing these rules of the 
art of writing so widely adopted, people who reflect little 
have ended by believing that they were based on the 
nature of things themselves. 

I am neither a professor, a populariser of knowledge, 
nor a candidate for party leadership. I am a self-taught 
man exhibiting to other people the notebooks which have 
served for my own instruction. That is why the rules of 
the art of writing have never interested me very much. 

During twenty years I worked to deliver myself from 
what I retained of my education ; I read books, not so 
much to learn as to efface from my memory the ideas 
which had been thrust upon it. It is only during the 
last fifteen years that I have really worked for the purpose 
of learning ; but I have never found any one to teach 
me what I wanted to know. I have had to be my own 
master, and in a way to educate myself. I make notes 
in which I formulate my thoughts as they arise ; I return 
three or four times to the same question, adding correc- 
tions which amplify the original, and sometimes even 
transform it from top to bottom ; I only stop when I have 
exhausted the reserve of ideas stirred up by recent reading. 
This work is very difficult for me ; that is why I like to 
take as my subject the discussion of a book by a good 
author : I can then arrange my thoughts more easily 
than when I am left to my own unaided efforts. 

You will remember what Bergson has written about 
the impersonal, the socialised, the ready-made, all of 
which contains a lesson for students who need knowledge 

1 I recall here a phrase of Renan : " Reading, in order to be of any 
use, must be an exercise involving some effort " {Feuilles detachees, 
P- 231)- 


for practical life. A student has more confidence in 
the formulas which he is taught, and consequently retains 
them more easily, when he believes that they are accepted 
by the great majority ; in this way all metaphysical pre- 
occupations are removed from his mind and he is to feel 
no need for a personal conception of things ; he often 
comes to look on the absence of any inventive spirit as a 

My own method of work is entirely opposed to this ; 
for I put before my readers the working of a mental 
effort which is continually endeavouring to break through 
the bonds of what has been previously constructed for 
common use, in order to discover that which is truly 
personal and individual. The only things I find it worth 
while entering in my notebooks are those which I have 
not met elsewhere ; I readily skip the transitions between 
these things, because they nearly always come under the 
heading of commonplaces. 

The communication of thought is always very difficult 
for any one who has strong metaphysical preoccupations ; 
he thinks that speech will spoil the most fimdamental 
parts of his thought, those which are very near to the 
motive power of the mind, those which appear so natural 
to him that he never seeks to express them. A reader 
has great difficulty in grasping the thought of an inventor, 
because he can only attain it by finding again the path 
traversed by the latter. Verbal communication is much 
easier than written communication, because words act 
on the feelings in a mysterious way and easily establish 
a current of sympathy between people ; it is for this 
reason that an orator is able to produce conviction by 
arguments which do not seem very comprehensible to 
any one reading the speech later. You know how useful 
it is to have heard Bergson if one wants to recognise 
clearly the tendencies of his doctrine and to imderstand 
his books rightly. When one has followed his courses 


of lectures for some time one becomes familiar with the 
order of his ideas and gets one's bearings more easily 
amidst the novelties of his philosophy. 

The defects of my manner of writing prevent me 
getting access to a wide public ; but I think that we 
ought to be content with the place that nature and 
circumstances have assigned to each of us, without 
desiring to force our natural talent. There is a necessary 
division of fimctions in the world ; it is a good thing 
that some are content to work, simply that they may 
submit their reflections to a few studious people, whilst 
others love to address the great mass of busy humanity. 
All things considered, I do not think that mine is the 
worst lot, for I am not exposed to the danger of becoming 
my own disciple, as has happened to the greatest philo- 
sophers when they have endeavoured to give a perfectly 
symmetrical form to the intuitions they brought into 
the world. You will certainly not have forgotten the 
smiUng disdain with which Bergson has spoken of this 
infirmity of genius. So little am I capable of becoming 
my own disciple that I am unable to take up an old work 
of mine again with the idea of stating it better, or even 
of completing it ; it is easy enough for me to add correc- 
tions and to annotate it, but I have many times vainly 
tried to think the past over again. 

Much more, then, am I prevented from ever becom- 
ing the founder of a school ; ^ but is that really a great 

1 I think it may be interesting to quote here some reflections borrowed 
from an admirable book of Newman's : " It will be our wisdom to avail 
ourselves of language, as far as it will go, but to aim mainly, by means 
of it, to stimulate in those to whom we address ourselves, a mode of 
thinking and trains of thought similar to our own, leading them on 
by their own independent action, not by any syllogistic compulsion. 
Hence it is that an intellectual school will always have something of an 
esoteric character ; for it is an assemblage of minds that think, their 
bond is unity of thought, and their words become a sort of tessera, not 
expressing thought but symbolising it" {Grammar of Assent, p. 309). 
As a matter of fact, the schools have hardly ever resembled this ideal 
sketched out bv Newman. 


misfortune ? Disciples have nearly always exercised a 
pernicious influence on the thought of him they called 
their master, and who has often believed himself obliged to 
follow them. There is no doubt that his transformation 
by young enthusiasts into the leader of a party was a 
real disaster for Marx ; he would have done much 
more useful work if he had not been the slave of the 

People have often laughed at Hegel's belief — that 
humanity, since its origins, had worked to give birth to 
the Hegelian philosophy, and that with that philosophy 
Spirit had at last completed its development. Similar 
illusions are found to a certain extent in all founders of 
schools ; disciples expect their master to close the era 
of doubt by giving final solutions to all problems. I have 
no aptitude for a task of that kind. Every time that I 
have approached a question, I have found that my 
enquiries ended by giving rise to new problems, and the 
farther I pushed my investigations the more disquieting 
these new problems became. But philosophy is after 
all perhaps only the recognition of the abysses which lie 
on each side of the footpath that the vulgar follow with 
the serenity of somnambulists. 

It is my ambition to be able occasionally to stir up 
personal research. There is probably in the mind of 
every man, hidden under the ashes, a quickening fire, 
and the greater the number of ready-made doctrines 
the mind has received blindly the more is this fire 
threatened with extinction ; the awakener is the man 
who stirs the ashes and thus makes the flames leap up. 
I do not think that I am praising myself without cause 
when I say that J have sometimes succeeded in liberating 
the spirit of invention in my readers ; and it is the spirit 
of invention which it is above all necessary to stir up in 
the world. It is better to have obtained this result than 
to have gained the banal approbation of people who 


repeat formulas and enslave their own thought in the 
disputes of the schools. 

My Reflections on Violence have irritated many people 
on account of the pessimistic conception on which the 
whole of the study rests ; but I know that you do not share 
this impression ; you have brilliantly shown in your Histoire 
de quatre ans that you despise the deceptive hopes with 
which the weak solace themselves. We can then talk 
pessimism freely to each other, and I am happy to have 
a correspondent who does not revolt against a doctrine 
without which nothing very great has been accomplished 
in this world. I have felt for some time that Greek 
philosophy did not produce any great moral result, 
simply because it was, as a rule, very optimistic. Socrates 
was at times optimistic to an almost unbearable degree. 

The aversion of most of our contemporaries from every 
pessimistic conception is doubtless derived, to a great 
extent, from our system of education. The Jesuits, who 
created nearly ever5^hing that the University still con- 
tinues to teach, were optimists because they had to combat 
the pessimism which dominated Protestant theories, and 
because they popularised the ideas of the Renaissance ; 
the Renaissance interpreted antiquity by means of 
the philosophers, and consequently misunderstood the 
masterpieces of tragic art so completely that our con- 
temporaries have had considerable difficulty in redis- 
covering their pessimistic significance.^ 

1 " The significant melancholy found in the masterpieces of Hellenic 
art prove that, even at that time, gifted individuals were able to peer 
through the illusions of life to which the spirit of their own surrendered 
itself without the slightest critical reflection " (Hartmann, The Philo- 
sophy of the Unconscious, Eng. trans., vol. iii. p. 78 ; ii. p. 436). 

I call attention to this view, which sees in the genius of the great 
Greeks a historical anticipation ; few doctrines are more important 
for an understanding of history than that of anticipations, which 
Newman used in his researches on the history of dogmas. 



At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there 
was such a concert of groaning that pessimism became 
odious. Poets, who were not, as a matter of fact, much 
to be pitied, professed to be victims of fate, of human 
wickedness, and still more of the stupidity of a world 
which had not been able to distract them ; they eagerly 
assumed the attitudes of a Prometheus called upon to 
dethrone jealous gods, and with a pride equal to that of 
the fierce Nimrod of Victor Hugo (whose arrows, hurled 
at the sky, fell back stained with blood), they imagined 
that their verses inflicted deadly wounds on the estab- 
lished powers who dared to refuse to bow down before 
them. The prophets of the Jews never dreamed of so 
much destruction to avenge their Jehovah as these 
literary people dreamed of to satisfy their vanity. When 
this fashion for imprecations had passed, sensible men 
began to ask themselves if all this display of pretended 
pessimism had not been the result of a certain want of 
mental balance. 

The immense successes obtained by industrial civilisa- 
tion has created the belief that, in the near future, happi- 
ness will be produced automatically for everybody. 
'* The present century," writes Hartmann, " has for the 
last forty years only entered the third period of illusion. 
In the enthusiasm and enchantment of its hopes, it rushes 
towards the realisation of the promise of a new age of gold. 
Providence takes care that the anticipations of the 
isolated thinker do not disarrange the course of history 
by prematurely gaining too many adherents." He 
thinks that for this reason his readers will have some 
difficulty in accepting his criticism of the illusion of future 
happiness. The leaders of the contemporary world are 
pushed towards optimism by economic forces.^ 

So little are we prepared to imderstand pessimism, 
that we generally employ the word quite incorrectly : 

* Hartmann, loc. cit. vol. iii. p. 102. 


we call pessimists people who axe in reality only dis- 
illusioned optimists. When we meet a man who, having 
been unfortunate in his enterprises, deceived in his most 
legitimate ambitions, humihated in his affections, ex- 
presses his griefs in the form of a violent revolt against 
the dupHcity of his associates, the stupidity of society, 
or the blindness of destiny, we are disposed to look upon 
him as a pessimist ; whereas we ought nearly always to 
regard him as a disheartened optimist who has not had 
the courage to start afresh, and who is unable to under- 
stand why so many misfortunes have befallen him, con- 
trary to what he supposes to be the general law governing 
the production of happiness. 

The optimist in politics is an inconstant and even i 
dangerous man, because he takes no accoimt of the great 
difficulties presented by his projects ; these projects 
seem to him to possess a force of their own, which tends I 
to bring about their reahsation all the more easily as they | 
are, in his opinion, destined to produce the happiest results, i 
He frequently thinks that small reforms in the political 
constitution, and, above all, in the personnel of the govern- 
ment, will be sufficient to direct social development in 
such a way as to mitigate those evils of the contemporary 
world which seem so harsh to the sensitive mind. As 
soon as his friends come into power, he declares that it 
is necessary to let things alone for a Httle, not to hurry 
too much, and to learn how to be content with whatever 
their own benevolent intentions prompt them to do. It is 
not always self-interest that suggests these expressions 
of satisfaction, as people have often believed ; self- 
interest is strongly aided by vanity and by the illusions 
of philosophy. The optimist passes with remarkable 
facility from revolutionary anger to the most ridiculous! 
social pacificism. 

If he possesses an exalted temperament, and if unhappily 
he finds himself armed with great power, permitting him 


to realise the ideal he has fashioned, the optimist may 
lead his country into the worst disasters. He is not long 
in finding out that social transformations are not brought 
about with the ease that he had counted on ; he then 
supposes that this is the fault of his contemporaries, 
instead of explaining what actually happens by historical 
necessities ; he is tempted to gi^i rid of people whose 
obstinacy seems to him to be so dangerous to the happi- 
ness of all. During the Terror, the men who spilt most 
blood were precisely those who had the greatest desire 
to let their equals enjoy the golden age they had dreamt 
of, and who had the most sympathy with human wretched- 
ness : optimists, idealists, and sensitive men, the greater 
desire they had for imiversal happiness the more inexor- 
able they showed themselves. 

Pessimism is quite a different thing from the caricatures 
of it which are usually presented to us ; it is a philosophy 
of conduct rather than a theory of the world ; it considers 
the march towards deliverance as narrowly conditioned, 
on the one hamd, by the experimental knowledge that 
we have acquired from the obstacles which oppose them- 
selves to the satisfaction of our imaginations (or, if we 
like, by the feeling of social determinism), and, on the 
other, by a profound conviction of our natural weakness. 
These two aspects of pessimism should never be separated, 
although, as a rule, scarcely any attention is paid to their 
close connection. 

I. The conception of pessimism springs from the fact 
that literary historians have been very much struck 
with the complaints made by the great poets of antiquity 
on the subject of the griefs which constantly threaten 
mankind. There are few people who have not, at one 
time or another, experienced a piece of good fortime ; 
but we are surrounded by malevolent forces always ready 
to spring out on us from some ambuscade and overwhelm 
us. Hence the very real suiferings which arouse the 


sympathy of nearly all men, even of those who have been 
more favourably treated by fortune ; so that the literature 
of grief has always had a certain success throughout the 
whole course of history.^ But a study of this kind of 
literature would give us a very imperfect idea of pessim- 
ism. It may be laid down as a general rule, that in order 
to understand a doctrine it is not sufficient to study it 
in an abstract manner, nor even as it occurs in isolated 
people : it is necessary to find out how it has been mani- 
fested in historical groups ; it is for this reason that I am 
here led to add the two elements that were mentioned 

2. The pessimist regards social conditions as forming 
a system boimd together by an iron law which cannot be 
evaded, so that the system is given, as it were, in one 
block, and cannot disappear except in a catastrophe 
which involves the whole. If this theory is admitted, it 
then becomes absurd to make certain wicked men re- 
sponsible for the evils from which society suffers ; the 
pessimist is not subject to the sanguinary follies of the 
optimist, infatuated by the unexpected obstacles that 
his projects meet with ; he does not dream of bringing 
about the happiness of future generations by slaughter- 
ing existing egoists. 

3. The most fundamental element of pessimism is 
its method of conceiving the path towards deliverance. 
A man would not go very far in the examination either 
of the laws of his own wretchedness or of fate, which 
so much shock the ingenuousness of our pride, if he were 
not borne up by the hope of putting an end to these 
tyrannies by an effort, to be attempted with the help of 
a whole band of companions. The Christians would not 
have discussed original sin so much if they had not felt 

1 The sham cries of despair which were heard at the beginning of 
the nineteenth century owed part of their success to the analogies of 
form which they presented to the real literature of pessimism. 


the necessity of justifying the dehverance (which was 
to result from the death of Jesus) by supposing that this 
sacrifice had been rendered necessary by a frightful crime, 
which could be imputed to humanity. If the people of 
the West were much more occupied with original sin than 
those of the East, it was not solely, as Taine thought, 
owing to the influence of Roman law,^ but also because 
the Latins, having a more elevated conception of the 
imperial majesty than the Greeks, regarded the sacrifice 
of the Son of God as having realised an extraordinarily 
marvellous deliverance ; from this proceeded the necessity 
of intensifying human wretchedness and of destiny. 

It seems to me that the optimism of the Greek philo- 
sophers depended to a great extent on economic reasons ; 
it probably arose in the rich and conunercial urban 
populations who were able to regard the universe as an 
immense shop full of excellent things with which they could 
satisfy their greed.^ I imagine that Greek pessimism 
sprang from poor warlike tribes living in the mountains, 
who were filled with an enormous aristocratic pride, but 
whose material conditions were correspondingly poor ; 
their poets charmed them by praising their ancestors and 
made them look forward to triumphal expeditions con- 
ducted by superhuman heroes ; they explsdned their 
present wretchedness to them by relating catastrophes 
in which semi-divine former chiefs had succumbed to 
fate or the jealousy of the gods ; the courage of the 
warriors might for the moment be imable to accompUsh 
anything, but it would not always be so ; the tribe must 
remain faithful to the old customs in order to be ready 
for great and victorious expeditions, which might very 
well take place in the near future. 

1 Taine, Le Regime Moderns, vol. ii. pp. 121-122. 

' The Athenian comic poets have several times depicted a land of 
Cokaigne, where there was no need to work (A. and M. Croiset, Histoire 
de la litter ature Grecque, vol. iii. pp. 472-474). 


Oriental asceticism has often been considered the most 
remarkable manifestation of pessimism ; Hartmann is 
certainly right when he regards it as having only the 
value of an anticipation, which was useful since it re- 
minded men how much there is that is illusory in vulgar 
riches ; he was wrong, however, in saying that asceticism 
taught men that the ** destined end to all their efforts *' 
was the annihilation of will,* for in the course of history 
deliverance has taken quite other forms than this. 

In primitive Christianity we find a fully developed 
and completely armed pessimism : man is condemned 
to slavery from his birth — Satan is the prince of the 
world — the Christian, already regenerate by baptism, 
can render himself capable of obtaining the resurrection 
of the body by means of the Eucharist ; * he awaits the 
glorious second coming of Christ, who will destroy the rule 
of Satan and call his comrades in the fight to the heavenly 
Jerusalem. The Christian Hfe of that time was dominated 
by the necessity of membership in the holy army which was 
constantly exposed to the ambuscades set by the accom- 
plices of Satan ; this conception produced many heroic 
acts, engendered a courageous propaganda, and was the 
cause of considerable moral progress. The deliverance did 
not take place, but we know by innumerable testimonies 
from that time what great things the march towards 
deliverance can bring about. 

Sixteenth^ century Calvinism presents a spectacle 
which is perhaps even more instructive ; but we must 
be careful not to confuse it, as many authors have done, 
with contemporary Protestantism ; these two doctrines 

* Hartmann, loc cit. p. 130. " Contempt for the world, combined 
with a transcendent Hfe of the spirit, had, indeed, in India, already found 
a place in the esoteric doctrine of Buddhism. But this teaching was 
only within the reach of a narrow circle of celibate adepts ; -the outside 
world had only taken the ' letter which kills,' so that the thought only 
attained realisation in the eccentric phenomena of hermits and 
penitents" (p. 81). 

« Battifol, £tudes d'histoire et de tfUologie positive, 2nd series, p. 162. 


are the antipodes of each other. I cannot understand 
how Hartmann came to say that Protestantism '* is a 
halting place in the journey of true Christianity," and 
that it " allied itself with the renaissance of ancient 
paganism." ^ These judgments only apply to recent 
Protestantism, which has abandoned its own principles 
in order to adopt those of the Renaissance. Pessimism, 
which formed no part of the current of ideas which char- 
acterised the Renaissance,^ has never been so strongly 
affirmed as it was by the Reformers. The dogmas of 
sin and predestination which correspond to the two first 
aspects of pessimism, the wretchedness of the human 
species, and social determinism, were pushed to their 
most extreme consequences. Deliverance was conceived 
imder a very different form to that which had been given 
it by primitive Christianity ; Protestants organised them- 
selves into a military force wherever possible ; they 
made expeditions into Catholic countries, expelled the 
priests, introduced the reformed cult, and promulgated 
laws of proscription against papists. They no longer 
borrowed from the apocalypses the idea of a great final 
catastrophe, of which the brothers-in-arms who had for 
so long defended themselves against the attacks of Satan 
would only be spectators ; the Protestants, nourished 
on the reading of the Old Testament, wished to imitate 
the exploits of the conquerors of the Holy Land ; they 
took the offensive, and wished to establish the kingdom 
of God by force. In each locality they conquered the 
Calvinists brought about a real catastrophic revolution, 
which changed everything from top to bottom. 

1 Hartmann, The Religion of the Future, Eng. trans., p. 23. 

* " At this epoch commenced the struggle between the Pagan love 
of life and the Christian hatred of this world and avoidance of it " 
(Hartmann, op. cit. p. 88). This pagan conception is to be found in 
liberal protestantism, and this is why Hartmann rightly considers it 
to be irreligious ; but the men of the sixteenth century took a very 
different view of the matter. 


Calvinism was finally conquered by the Renaissance ; 
it was full of theological prejudices derived from medieval 
traditions, and there came a time when it feared to be 
thought too far behind the times ; it wished to be on the 
level of modem culture, and it finished by becoming 
simply a lax Christianity.^ To-day very few people 
suspect what the reformers of the sixteenth century 
meant by " free examination " ; the Protestants of 
to-day apply the same method to the Bible that philol- 
ogists apply to any profane text; Calvin's exegesis has 
been replaced by the criticisms of the humanists. 

The annalist who contents himself with recording 
facts is tempted to regard the conception of deliverance 
as a dream or an error, but the true historian considers 
things from a different point of view ; whenever he 
endeavours to find out what has been the influence of 
the Calvinist spirit on morals, law, or literature, he is 
always driven back to a consideration of the way in which 
former Protestant thought was dominated by the con- 
ception of the path to deliverance. The experience of 
this great epoch shows quite clearly that in this warlike 
excitement which accompanies this will-to-deliverance 
the courageous man finds a satisfaction which is sufficient 
to keep up his ardour. I am convinced that in the 
history of that time you might find excellent illustrations 
of the idea that you once expressed to me — that the 
Wandering Jew may be taken as a S3nnbol of the highest 
aspirations of mankind, condemned as it is to march for 
ever without knowing rest. 


My theses have shocked many people who are, to a 
certain extent, under the influence of the ideas of natural 

1 If Socialism comes to grief it will evidently be in the same way, 
because it will have been alarmed at its own barbarity. 



justice implanted in us by our education ; very few 
educated men have been able to free themselves from 
these ideas. While the philosophy of natural justice is 
in perfect agreement with that of force (understanding 
this word in the special meaning that I have given it in 
Chapters IV. and V.), it cannot be reconciled with my 
conception of the historical function of violence. The 
scholastic doctrines of natural right contain nothing but 
this simple tautology — ^what is just is good, and what 
is unjust is bad ; as if in enunciating such a doctrine we 
did not implicitly admit that the just must adapt itself 
to the natural order of events. It was for a reason of 
this kind that the economists for a long time asserted 
that the conditions created under the capitalist regime 
of competition are perfectly just, because they result 
from the natural course of things ; and inversely the 
makers of Utopias have always claimed that the actual 
state of the world was not natural enough) they have 
wished, consequently, to paint a picture of a society 
naturally better regulated and therefore juster. 

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of quoting some 
of Pascal's Pensees which terribly embarrassed his con- 
temporaries, and which have only been understood in 
our day. Pascal had considerable difficulty in freeing 
himself from the ideas of natural justice which he found 
in the philosophers ; he abandoned them because he did 
not think them sufficiently imbued with Christianity. 
" I have passed a great part of my life believing that 
there was justice, and in this I was not mistaken, for 
there is justice according as God has willed to reveal it 
to us. But I did not take it so, and this is where I 
made a mistake, for I believed that our justice was 
essentially just, and that I possessed means by which 
I could know this and judge of it " (fragment 375 
of the Braunschvieg edition). ** Doubtless there are 
natural laws ; but this good reason once corrupted, 


has corrupted all''^ (fragment 294) ; " Veri juris. We 
have it no longer " (fragment 297). 

Moreover, mere observation • showed Pascal the ab- 
surdity of the theory of natural right ; if this theory was 
correct, we ought to find laws which are imiversally ad- 
mitted ; but actions which we regard as criminal have at 
other times been regarded as virtuous. ** Three degrees 
of latitude nearer the Pole reverse all jurisprudence, a 
meridian decides what is truth ; fundamental laws change 
after a few years of possession, right has its epochs, the 
entry of Saturn into the constellation of the Lion marks 
to us the origin of such and such a crime. A strange 
justice that is bounded by a river 1 Truth on this side 
of the Pyrenees becomes error on the other. . . . We must, 
it is said, get back to the natural and fundamental laws of 
the State, which an imjust custom has abolished. This is 
a game certain to result in the loss of all ; nothing will be 
just on the balance" (fragment 294 ; cf. fragment 379). 

As it is thus impossible for us to reason about justice, 
we ought to appeal to custom ; and Pascal often falls 
back on this precept (fragments 294, 297, 299, 309, 312). 
He goes still further and shows how justice is practically 
dependent on force : " Justice is subject to dispute ; 
might is easily recognised and is not disputed. Thus it 
is not possible to attribute might to justice, because 
might has often contradicted justice, and said that it 
itself was just. And thus not being able to make what 
was just strong, what was strong has been made just " 
(fragment 298 ; cf. fragments 302, 303, 306, 307, 311). 

This criticism of natural right has not the perfect 
clearness that we could give it at the present day, because 
we know now that it is in economics we must seek for a 

^ It seems to me that Pascal's editors in 1670 must have been 
alarmed at his Calvinism. I am astonished that Sainte-Beuve should 
have said nothing more than that there " was in Pascal's Christianity 
something which they could not understand, that Pascal had a greater 
need than they had of Christian faith (Port Royal, vol. iii. p. 383). 


type of force that has attained absolutely uncontrolled 
development, and can thus be identified naturally with 
right, whilst Pascal under the one heading confuses 
together all the manifestations of force. ^ 

Pascal was vividly impressed by the changes that the 
conception of justice has experienced in the course of 
time, and these changes still continue to embarrass 
philosophers exceedingly. A well-organised social system 
is destroyed by a revolution and is replaced by another 
system, which in its turn is considered to be perfectly 
just ; so that what was just before now becomes unjust. 
Any amount of sophisms have been produced to show 
that force has been placed at the service of justice during 
revolutions ; these arguments have been many times 
shown to be absurd. But the public is so accustomed to 
believe in natural rights that it cannot make up its mind 
to abandon them. 

There is hardly anything, not excepting even war, 
that people have not tried to bring inside the scope of 
natural right : they compare war to a process in which 
one nation reclaims a right which a malevolent neighbour 
refuses to recognise. Our fathers readily acknowledged 
that God decided battles in favour of those who had 
justice on their side ; the vanquished were to be treated 
as an unsuccessful litigant : they must pay the costs of 
the war and give guarantees to the victor in order that 
the latter might enjoy their restored rights in peace. At 
the present time there are plenty of people who propose 
that international conflicts should be submitted to 
arbitration ; this would only be a secularisation of the 
ancient mythology. ^ 

1 Cf. what I say about force in Chapter V. 

« I cannot succeed in finding the idea of international arbitration 
in fragment 296 of Pascal, where several people claim to have discovered 
it ; in this paragraph Pascal simply points out the ridiculous aspect 
of the claim made in his time by every belligerent — to condemn the 
conduct of his adversary in the name of justice. 


The people who believe in natural right are not always 
implacable enemies of civil struggles, and certainly not 
of tumultuous rioting ; that has been sufficiently shown 
in the course of the Dreyfus question. When the force 
of the State was in the hands of their adversaries, they 
acknowledged, naturally enough, that it was being 
employed to violate justice, and they then proved that 
one might with a good conscience " step out of the region 
of legality in order to enter that of justice " (to borrow a 
phrase of the Bonapartists) ; when they could not over- 
throw the government, they tried at least to intimidate 
it. But when they attacked the people who for the 
time being controlled the force of the State, they did not 
at all desire to suppress that force, for they wished to 
utilise it some day for their own profit ; all the revolu- | 
tionary disturbances of the nineteenth century have \ 
ended in reinforcing the power of the State. 

Proletarian violence entirely changes the aspect of 
all the conflicts in which it intervenes, since it disowns 
the force organised by the middle class, and claims to 
suppress the State which serves as its central nucleus. , 
Under such conditions, it is no longer possible to argue *|\ 
about the primordial rights of man. That is why our 
parliamentary socialists, who spring from the middle 
classes and who know nothing outside the ideology of 
the State, are so bewildered when they are confronted 
with working-class violence. They cannot apply to it 
the commonplaces which generally serve them when they 
speak about force, and they look with terror on movements 
which may result in the ruin of the institutions by which 
they live. If revolutionary syndicaHsm triumphs, there 
will be no more brilliant speeches on immanent Justice, 
and the parliamentary regime, so dear to the intellectuals, 
will be finished with — ^it is the abomination of desolation ! 
We must not be astonished, then, that they speak about 
violence with so much anger. 


Giving evidence on June 5, 1907, before the Cours 
d' Assises de la Seine, in the Bousquet-Levy case, Jaur^s 
said, '* I have no superstitious beUef in legality, it has 
already received too many blows; but I always advise 
workmen to have recourse to legal means, for violence is 
the sign of temporary weakness.'* This is clearly a remini- 
scence of the Dreyfus question. Jaur^s remembered 
that his friends were obliged to have recourse to revolu- 
tionary manifestations, and it is ezisy to understand that, 
as a result of this affair, he had not retained very great 
respect for legality. He probably likened the present 
position of the syndicalists to the former position of the 
Dreyfusards ; for the moment they are weak, but they 
are destined ultimately to have the force of the 
State at their own disposal ; they would then be 
very imprudent to destroy by violence a force which 
is destined to become theirs. He may even regret at 
times that the State has been so severely shaken by 
the Dre5^us agitation, just as Gambetta regretted that 
the administration had lost its former prestige and 

One of the most elegant of Republican ministers ^ has 
made a speciality of high-sounding phrases directed against 
the upholders of violence. Viviani charms deputies, 
senators, and the employes assembled to admire his 
excellency on his official tours, by telling them that 
violence is the caricature, or rather ** the fallen and 
degenerate daughter," of force. After boasting that he 
has, by a magnificent gesture, extinguished the lamps of 

1 The Petit Parisien, that one always quotes with pleasure as the 
barometer of democratic stupidity, teUs us that " this scornful definition 
of the elegant and immoral M. de Morny — Republicans are people who 
dress badly — seems to-day altogether without any foundation." I 
borrow this philosophical observation from an enthusiastic description 
of the marriage of the charming minister Cl^mentel (October 22, 1905). 
This well-informed newspaper has accused me of giving the workers 
hooligan advice (April 7, 1907). 


Heaven, he assumes the attitudes of a matador, at whose 
feet a furious bull has fallen.^ 

If I were more vain about my literary efforts than I 
am, I should like to imagine that he was thinking of me 
when he said in the Senate, on November i6, 1906, that 
'* one must not mistake a fanatic for a party, nor rash 
statements for a system of doctrine." There is only one 
pleasure greater than that of being appreciated by in- 
telligent people, and that is the pleasure of not being 
understood by blunderheads, who are only capable of 
expressing in a kind of jargon what serves them in the 
place of thought. But I have every reason to suppose 
that, in the brilliant set which surrounds this charlatan,^ 
there is not one who has ever heard of the Mouvement 
Socialiste. It is quite within the comprehension of Viviani 
and his companions in the Cabinet that people may 
attempt an insurrection when they feej themselves 
solidly organised enough to take over the State ; but 

1 " I have seen violence myself," he told the Senate on November 
16, 1906, " face to face. I have been, day after day, in the midst of 
thousands of men who bore on their faces the marks of a terrifying 
exaltation. I have remained in the midst of them, face to face and 
shoulder to shoulder." He boasted that in the end he had triumphed 
over the strikers in the Creusot workshops. 

2 In the course of the same speech, Viviani strongly insisted on his 
own Socialism, and declared that he intended " to remain faithful to 
the ideal of his first years of public hfe." If we are to judge by a 
brochure in 1897 by the Allemanistes, under the title La Viriti sur 
I' union socialiste. this ideal was opportunism ; when he left Algeria 
for Paris, Viviani was transformed into a Socialist, and the brochure 
then asserts that his new attitude is a he. Evidently this work was 
edited by fanatics with no understanding of the manners of polite 

[Allemanistes : this was the name given to the members of the 
" Revolutionary Socialist Workmen's Party " because Allemanc was 
the best-known member of the group. They did not wish (in principle 
at any rate) to admit any but workmen into the party ; they were for 
a long time very hostile to the parhamentary Sociahsts. During the 
Dreyfus affair they went with the rest and demanded a retrial ; to-day 
they have disappeared, but they had some influence in the formation 
of the Syndicalist idea. — Trans. Note.] 


working-class violence which has no such aim, seems to 
them only folly and an odious caricature of revolution. 
Do what you like, but don't kill the goose. 


In the course of this study one thing has always 

been present in my mind, which seemed to me so 

evident that I did not think it worth while to lay 

> much stress on it — that men who are participating in 

V a great social movement cdways picture their coming 

\ ; action as a battle in which their cause is certain to 

1 triumph. These constructions, knowledge of which is 

so important for historians, I propose to call myths ; ^ 

the syndicalist " general strike *' and Marx's catastrophic 

revolution are such myths. As remarkable examples 

of such myths, I have given those which were constructed 

by primitive Christianity, by the Reformation, by the 

Revolution and by the followers of Mazzini. I now 

wish to show that we should not attempt to analyse such 

groups of images in the way that we analyse a thing into 

its elements, but that they must be taken as a whole, 

I as historical forces, and that we should be especially 

careful not to make any comparison between accomplished 

fact and the picture people had formed for themselves 

before action. 

I could have given one more example which is perhaps 
still more striking : Catholics have never been discouraged 
even in the hardest trials, because they have alwa5rs 
pictured the history of the Church as a series of battles 
between Satan and the hierarchy supported by Christ ; 
every new difficulty which arises is only an episode in a 
war which must finally end in the victory of Catholicism. 

^ In the Introduction d, Viconomie moderne, I have given the word 
myth a more general sense, which closely corresponds to the narrower 
meaning given to it here. 


At the beginning of the nineteenth century the revolu- 
tionary persecutions revived this myth of the struggle 
with Satan, which inspired so many of the eloquent 
pages in Joseph de Maistre ; this rejuvenation explains 
to a large extent the religious renascence which took 
place at that epoch. If Catholicism is in danger at the 
present time, it is to a great extent owing to the fact that 
the myth of the Church militant tends to disappear. 
Ecclesiastical literature has greatly contributed to render- 
ing it ridiculous ; thus in 1872, a Belgian writer recom- 
mended a revival of exorcisms, as they seemed to him 
an efficacious means of combating the revolutionaries.^ 
Many educated Catholics are horrified when they discover 
that the ideas of Joseph de Maistre have helped to 
encourage the ignorance of the clergy, which did not 
attempt to acquire an adequate knowledge of a science 
which it held to be accursed ; to these educated Catholics 
the myth of the struggle with Satan then appears 
dangerous, and they point out its ridiculous aspects ; but 
they do not in the least understand its historical bearing. 
The gentle, sceptical, and, above all, pacific, habits of the 
present generation are, moreover, unfavourable to its 
continued existence ; and the enemies of the Church 
loudly proclaim that they do not wish to return to a 
regime of persecution which might restore their former 
power to warlike images. 

In employing the term myth I believed that I had 
made a happy choice, because I thus put myself in a 
position to refuse any discussion whatever with the 
people who wish to submit the idea of a general strike 
to a detailed criticism, and who accumulate objections 

* p. Bureau, La Crise morale des temps nouveaux, p. 213. The author, 
a professor of the Institut Catholique de Paris, adds: " This recom- 
mendation can only excite hilarity nowadays. We are compelled to 
believe that the author's curious proposition was then accepted by a 
large number of his correUgionists, when we remember the astonishing 
success of the writings of L60 Taxil after his pretended conversion." 



against its practical possibility. It appears, on the 
contrary, that I had made a most unfortunate choice, 
for while some told me that myths were only suitable 
to a primitive state of society, others imagined that I 
thought the modem world might be moved by illusions 
analogous in nature to those which Renan thought might 
usefully replace religion.^ But there has been a worse 
misunderstanding than this even, for it has been asserted 
that my theory of myths was only a kind of lawyer's 
plea, a falsification of the real opinions of the revolu- 
tionaries, the sophistry of an intellectualist. 

If this were true, I should not have been exactly 
fortunate, for I have always tried to escape the influence 
of that intellectualist philosophy, which seems to me 
a great hindrance to the historian who allows himself 
to be dominated by it. The contradiction that exists 
between this philosophy and the true understanding of 
events has often struck the readers of Renan. Renan is 
continually wavering between his own intuition, which 
was nearly always admirable, and a philosophy which 
cannot touch history without falling into platitudes ; but, 
alas, he too often beUeved himself bound to think in 
accordance with the scientific opinions of his day. 

The intellectualist philosophy finds itself unable to 
explain phenomena like the following — the sacrifice of 
his life which the soldier of Napoleon made in order to 
have had the honour of taking part in " immortal deeds *' 
and of living in the glory of France, knowing all the time 
that " he would always be a poor man ** ; then, again, 
the extraordinary virtues shown by the Romans who 
resigned themselves to a frightful inequality and who 
suffered so much to conquer the world \^ '* the beUef in 

1 The principal object of these illusions seems to me to have been the 
calming of the anxieties that Renan had retained on the subject of 
the beyond (cf. an article by Mgr. d'Hulst in the Correspondani on 
October 25, 1892, pp. 210, 224-225). 

* Renan, Histoire du pguple d' Israel, vol. iv. p. 191. 


glory (which was) a value without equal," created by 
Greece, and as a result of which " a selection was made 
from the swarming masses of humanity, life acquired 
an incentive and there was a recompense here for those 
who had pursued the good and the beautiful." * The 
intellectualist philosophy, far from being able to explain 
these things, leads, on the contrary, to an admiration for 
the fifty-first chapter of Jeremiah, " the lofty though 
profoundly sad feeling with which the peaceful man 
contemplates these falls of empires, and the pity excited 
in the heart of the wise man by the spectacle of the 
nations labouring for vanity, victims of the arrogance of 
the few." Greece, according to Renan, did not experience 
anything of that kind, and I do not think that we need 
complain about that.* Moreover, he himself praises the 
Romans for not having acted in accordance with the 
conceptions of the Jewish thinker. ** They laboured, 
they wore themselves out for nothing, said the Jewish 
thinker — yes, doubtless, but those are the virtues that 
history rewards."' 

Religions constitute a very troublesome problem for 
the intellectualists, for they can neither regard them as 
being without historical importance nor can they explain 
them. Renan, for example, has written some very strange 
sentences on this subject. " Religion is a necessary 
imposture. Even the most obvious ways of throwing 
dust in people's eyes cannot be neglected when you are 
dealing with a race as stupid as the human species, a 
race created for error, which, when it does admit the 
truth, never does so for the right reasons. It is necessary 
then to give it the wrong ones." * 

Comparing Giordano Bruno, who ** allowed himself 
to be burnt at Champ -de - Flore " with Galileo, who 

* Renan, loc. cit. p. 267. « Renan, loc. cit. pp. 199-200. 

• Renan. op. cit. vol. iii. pp. 458-459. 
« Renan, op. cit. vol. v. pp. 105-106. 


submitted to the Holy See, Renan sides with the second, 
because, according to him, the scientist need not bring 
anything to support his discoveries beyond good argu- 
ments. He considered that the Italian philosopher wished 
to supplement his inadequate proofs by his sacrifice, and 
he puts forward this scornful maxim : " A man suffers 
martyrdom only for the sake of things about which 
he is not certain." ^ Renan here confuses conviction, 
which must have been very powerful in Bruno's case, 
with that particular kind of certitude about the accepted 
theories of science, which instruction ultimately produces ; 
it would be difficult to give a more misleading idea of 
the forces which really move men. 

The whole of this philosophy can be summed up in 
the following phrase of Renan's: "Human affairs are 
always an approximation lacking gravity and precision " ; 
and as a matter of fact, for an intellectualist, what lacks 
precision must also lack gravity. But in Renan the 
conscientious historian was never entirely asleep, and 
he at once adds as a corrective : "To have realised this 
truth is a great result obtained by philosophy ; but it is 
an abdication of any active role. The future lies in the 
hands of those who are not disillusioned." ^ From this 
we may conclude that the intellectualist philosophy is 
entirely unable to explain the great movements of 

The intellectualist philosophy would have vainly 
endeavoured to convince the ardent Catholics, who for 

1 Renan, Nouvelles ttudes d'histoire religieuse, p. vii. Previously he 
had said, speaking of the persecutions: " People die for opinions, and 
not for certitudes, because they believe and not because they know 
. . . whenever beliefs are in question the greatest testimony and the 
most efficacious demonstration is to die for them " {L'^glise chrSiienne, 
p. 317). This thesis presupposes that martyrdom is a kind of ordeal, 
which was partly true in the Roman epoch, by reason of certain 
special circumstances (G. Sorel, Le SysUtne historique dt Renan, p. 


2 Renan, Histoire du peupU d'Israil, vol. iii. p. 497. 


SO long struggled successfully against the revolutionary 
traditions, that the myth of the Church militant was not 
in harmony with the scientific theories formulated by 
the most learned authors according to the best rules of 
criticism ; it would never have succeeded in persuading 
them. It would not have been possible to shake the faith 
that these men had in the promises made to the Church 
by any argument ; and so long as this faith remained, 
the myth was, in their eyes, incontestable. Similarly, the 
objections urged by philosophy against the revolutionary 
myths would have made an impression only on those 
men who were anxious to find a pretext for abandoning 
any active role, for remaining revolutionary in words 

I can understand the fear that this myth of the general 
strike inspires in many worthy progressives} on account of 
its character of infinity ; * the world of to-<iay is very much 
inclined to return to the opinions of the ancients and to 
subordinate ethics to the smooth working of public affairs, 
which results in a definition of virtue as the golden mean ; 
as long as socialism remains a doctrine expressed only in 
words, it is very easy to deflect it towards this doctrine 
of the golden mean ; but this transformation is manifestly * 
impossible when the myth of the " general strike " is 
introduced, as this implies an absolute revolution. You 
know as well as I do that all that is best in the modem 
mind is derived from this " torment of the infinite " ; 

* Translator's Note. — In French^ " 6mo«s gens." Sorel is using the 
words ironically to indicate those naive, philanthropically disposed 
people who believe that they have discovered the solution to the 
problem of social reform — whose attitude, however, is often complicated 
by a good deal of hypocrisy, they being frequently rapacious when . 
their own personal interests are at stake. 

• Parties, as a rule, define the reforms that they wish to bring about ; { 
but the general strike has a character of infinity, because it puts on one | 
side all discussion of definite reforms and confronts men with a ! 
catastrophe. People who pride themselves on their practical wisdom J 
are very much upset by such a conception, which puts forward no | 
definite project of future social organisation. 


you are not one of those people who look upon the tricks 
by means of which readers can be deceived by words, as 
happy discoveries. That is why you will not condemn 
me for having attached great worth to a myth which 
gives to socialism such high moral value and such great 
sincerity. It is because the theory of myths tends to 
produce such fine results that so many seek to dispute it. 


The mind of man is so constituted that it cannot remain 
content with the mere observation of facts, but always 
attempts to penetrate into the inner reason of things. I 
therefore ask myself whether it might not be desirable to 
study this theory of myths more thoroughly, utilising the 
enlightenment we owe to the Bergsonian philosophy. 
The attempt I am about to submit to you is doubtless 
very imperfect, but I think that it has been planned in 
accordance with the only method which can possibly 
throw light on the problem. In the first place, we should 
notice that the discussions of the moralists hardly ever 
come into contact with what is truly fundamental in ouf 
individuality. As a rule, they simply try to appraise 
our already completed acts with the help of the moral 
valuations formulated in advance by society, for the 
different types of action commonest in contemporary 
life. They say that in this way they are determining 
motives ; but these motives are of the same nature as 
those which jurists take account of in criminal justice ; 
they are merely social valuations of facts known to 
everybody. Many philosophers, especially the ancients, 
have believed that all values cotdd be deduced from 
utility, and if any social valuation does exist, it is surely 
this latter, — theologians estimate transgressions by the 
place they occupy on tlie road whicli, according to average 
human experience, leads to mortal sin ; they are thus 


able to ascertain the degree of viciousness of any given 
sin, — while the modems usually teach that we act after 
having established a particular maxim (which is, as it 
were, an abstraction or generalisation of our projected 
conduct), and justify this maxim by deducing it (more 
or less sophistically) from general principles which are, 
to a certain extent, analogous to the Declaration of the 
Rights of Man ; and, as a matter of fact, this theory 
was probably inspired by the admiration excited by 
the Bill of Rights placed at the head of each American 

We are all so extremely concerned in knowing what 
the world thinks of us that, sooner or later, considerations 
analogous to those the moralists speak of do pass through 
our mind ; as a result of this the moralists have been 
able to imagine that they have really made an appeal to 
experience for the purpose of finding out what exists at 
the bottom of the creative conscience, when, as a matter 
of fact, all they have done is to consider already accom- 
plished acts from the point of view of its social effects. 

Bergson asks us, on the contrary, to consider the inner 
depths of the mind and what happens there during a 
creative moment. " There are," he says, " two different 
selves, one of which is, as it were, the external projection 
of the other, its spatial and, so to speak, social representa- 
tion. We reach the former by deep introspection, which 
leads us to grasp our inner states as living things, con- 
stantly becoming, as states not amenable to measure. . . . 
But the moments at which we thus grasp ourselves are 

1 The Constitution of Virginia dates from June 1776. The American 
constitutions were known in Europe by two French translations, in 
1778 and 1789. Kant had published the Foundations of the Metaphysic 
of Custom in 1785 and the Critique of Practical Reason in 1788. One 
might say that the utilitarian system of the ancients has certain 
analogies with economics, that of the theologians with law, and that 
of Kant with the political theory of growing democracy (cf. Jellinck, 
La Declaration des droits de I'homme et du citoyen, trad, franc, pp. 18-25 ; 
pp. 49-50 ; p. 89). 


rare, and that is just why we are rarely free. The greater 
part of our time we live outside ourselves, hardly per- 
ceiving anything of ourselves but our own ghost, a colour- 
less shadow. . . . Hence we live for the external world 
rather than for ourselves ; we speak rather than think ; 
we are acted rather than act ourselves. To act freely 
is to recover possession of oneself, and to get back into 
pure duration." ^ 

In order to acquire a real understanding of this psy- 
chology we must " carry ourselves back in thought to 
those moments of our life, when we made some serious 
decision, moments unique of their kind, which will never 
be repeated — any more than the past phases in the 
history of a nation will ever come back again." ^ It is 
very evident that we enjoy this liberty pre-eminently 
when we are making an effort to create a new individuality 
in ourselves, thus endeavouring to break the bonds of 
habit which enclose us. It might at first be supposed 
that it would be sufficient to say that, at such moments, 
we are dominated by an overwhelming emotion ; but 
everybody now recognises that movement is the essence 
of emotional life, and it is, then, in terms of movement 
that we must speak of creative consciousness. 

It seems to me that this psychology of the deeper life 
must be represented in the following way. We must 
abandon the idea that the soul can be compared to some- 
thing moving, which, obeying a more or less mechanical 
law, is impelled in the direction of certain given motive 
forces. To say that we are acting, implies that we are 
creating an imaginary world placed ahead of the present 
world and composed of movements which depend entirely 
on us. In this way our freedom becomes perfectly 

1 Bergson, Time and Free Will, Eng. trans., pp. 231-232. In this 
philosophy a distinction is made between duration which flows, in 
which our personality manifests itself, and mathematical time, which 
science uses to measure and space out accomplished facts. 

* Bergson, op. cit., Eng. trans., pp. 238-239. 


intelligible. Starting from a study of these artificial 
constructions which embrace everything that interests 
us, several philosophers, inspired by Bergsonian doctrines, 
have been led to formulate a rather starthng theory. 
Edouard Le Roy, for example, says : *' Our real body is 
the entire universe in as far as it is experienced by us. 
And what common sense more strictly calls our body is 
only the region of least unconsciousness and greatest 
liberty in this greater body, the part which we most 
directly control and by means of which w^e are able to 
act on the rest." ^ But we must not, as this subtle 
philosopher constantly does, confuse a passing state of 
our willing activity with the stable affirmations of science.* 

These artificial worlds generally disappear from our 
minds without leaving any trace in our memory ; but 
when the masses are deeply moved it then becomes 
possible to trace the outlines of the kind of representation 
which constitutes a social myth. 

This belief in " glory" which Renan praised so much 
quickly fades away into rhapsodies when it is not sup- 
ported by myths ; these myths have varied greatly in 
different epochs : the citizen of the Greek republics, the 
Roman legionary, the soldier of the wars of Liberty, and 
the artist of the Renaissance did not picture their con- 
ception of glory by the help of the same set of images. 
Renan complained that " the faith in glory " is com- 
promised by the limited historical outlook more or less 
prevalent at, the present day. "Very few," he said, 
" act with a view to immortal fame. . . . Every one wants 
to enjoy his own glory ; they eat it in the green blade, 
and do not gather the sheaves after death." ^ In my 
opinion, this limited historical outlook is, on the contrary, 

^ E. Le Roy, Dogme et critique, p. 239. 

* It is easy to see here how the sophism creeps in ; the universe 
experienced by us may be either the real world in which we live or the 
world invented by us for action. 

* Renan, op. cit. vol. iv. p. 329. 


not a cause but a consequence ; it results from the weaken- 
ing of the heroic myths which had such great popularity 
at the beginning of the nineteenth century ; the belief in 
" glory " perished and a limited historic outlook became 
predominant at the time when these myths vanished.^ 

As long as there are no myths accepted by the masses, 
one may go on talking of revolts indefinitely, without 
ever provoking any revolutionary movement ; this is 
what gives such importance to the general strike and 
renders it so odious to socialists who are afraid of a 
revolution ; they do all they can to shake the confidence 
felt by the workers in the preparations they are making 
for the revolution ; and in order to succeed in this they 
cast ridicule on the idea of the general strike — the only 
idea that could have any value as a motive force. One 
of the chief means employed by them is to represent it , 
as a Utopia ; this is easy enough, because there are very 
few myths which are perfectly free from any Utopian 

The revolutionary myths which exist at the present 
time are almost free from any such mixture ; by means 
of them it is possible to understand the activity, the 
feelings and the ideas of the masses preparing themselves 
^ to enter on a decisive struggle ; the myths are not descrip- 
' tions of things, but expressions of a determination to act. 
A Utopia is, on the contrary, an intellectual product ; 

^ " Assent," said Newman, " however strong, and accorded to images 
however vivid, is not therefore necessarily practical. Strictly speaking, 
it is not imagination that causes action ; but hope and fear, likes and 
dislikes, appetite, passion, affection, the stirrings of selfishness and 
self-love. What imagination does for us is to find a means of stimulating 
those motive powers ; and it does so by providing a supply of objects 
strong enough to stimulate them " {pp. cit. p. 82). It may be seen from 
this that the illustrious thinker adopts an attitude which strongly 
resembles that of the theory of myths. It is impossible to read Newman 
without being struck by the analogies between his thought and that of 
Bergson : people who Hke to make the history of ideas depend on 
ethnical traditions will observe that Newman was descended from 


it is the work of theorists who, after observing and dis- 
cussing the known facts, seek to establish a model to 
which they can compare existing society in order to 
estimate the amount of good and evil it contains.^ It 
is a combination of imaginary institutions having sufficient 
analogies to real institutions for the jurist to be able to 
reason about them ; it is a construction which can be 
taken to pieces, and certain parts of it have been shaped 
in such a way that they can (with a few alterations by 
way of adjustment) be fitted into approaching legislation. 
Whilst contemporary myths lead men to prepare them- 
selves for a combat which will destroy the existing state 
of things, the effect of Utopias has always been to direct 
men's minds towards reforms which can be brought 
about by patching up the existing system ; it is not 
surprising, then, that so many makers of Utopias were 
able to develop into able statesmen when they had 
acquired a greater experience of political life. A myth 
cannot be refuted, since it is, at bottom, identical with 
the convictions of a group, being the expression of these 
convictions in the language of movement ; and it is, in 
consequence, unanalysable into parts which could be 
placed on the plane of historical descriptions. A Utopia, 
on the contrary, can be discussed like any other social 
constitution ; the spontaneous movements it presupposes 
can be compared with the movements actually observed 
in the course of history, and we can in this way evaluate 
its verisimilitude; it is possible to refute Utopias by 
showing that the economic system on which they have 
been made to rest is incompatible with the necessary 
conditions of'modem production. 

Liberal political economy is one of the best examples 
of a Utopia that could be given. A state of society 

* It was evidently a method of this kind that was adopted by those 
Greek philosophers who wished to be able to argue about ethics without 
being obliged to accept the customs which historical necessity had 
imposed at Athens. 



was imagined which could contain only the types pro- 
duced by commerce, and which would exist under the 
law of the fullest competition ; it is recognised to-day 
that this kind of ideal society would be as difficult to 
realise as that of Plato ; but several great statesmen of 
modem times have owed their fame to the efforts they 
made to introduce something of this ideal of commercial 
liberty into industrial legislation. 

We have here a Utopia free from any mixture of myth ; 
the history of French democracy, however, presents a very 
remarkable combination of Utopias and myths. The 
theories that inspired the authors of our first constitutions 
are regarded to-day as extremely chimerical ; indeed, 
people are often loth to concede them the value which 
they have been so long recognised to possess — that of 
an ideal on which legislators, magistrates, and admini- 
strators should constantly fix their eyes, in order to secure 
for men a little more justice. With these Utopias were 
mixed up the myths which represented the struggle 
against the ancient regime ; so long as the myths survived, 
all the refutations of liberal Utopias could produce no 
result ; the myth safeguarded the Utopia with which it 
was mixed. 

For a long time Socialism was scarcely anything but 
a Utopia ; the Marxists were right in claiming for 
their master the honour of bringing about a change 
in this state of things ; Socialism has now become the 
preparation of the masses employed in great industries 
for the suppression of the State and property ; and it 
is no longer necessary, therefore, to discuss how men must 
organise themselves in order to enjoy future happiness ; 
everything is reduced to the revolutionary apprentice- 
ship of the proletariat. Unfortunately Marx was not 
acquainted with facts which have now become familiar 
to us ; we know better than he did what strikes are, 
because we have been able to observe economic conflicts 


of considerable extent and duration ; the myth of the 
" general strike " has become popular, and is now firmly 
established in the minds of the workers ; we possess 
ideas about violence that it would have been difficult 
for him to have formed ; we can then complete his \ 
doctrine, instead of making commentaries on his text, \ 
as his unfortunate disciples have done for so long. ^ 

In this way Utopias tend to disappear completely I 
from Socialism ; Socialism has no longer any need to \ 
concern itself with the organisation of industry since 
capitalism does that. I think, moreover, that I have 
shown that the general strike corresponds to a kind of 
feeling which is so closely related to those which are 
necessary to promote production in any very progressive 
state of industry, that a revolutionary apprenticeship 
may at the same time be considered as an apprentice- 
ship which will enable the workmen to occupy a high 
rank among the best workmen of his own trade. \ 

People who are living in this world of " myths," are 
secure from all refutation ; this has led many to assert 
that Socialism is a kind of religion. For a long time 
people have been struck by the fact that religious con- 
victions are unaffected by criticism, and from that they 
have concluded that everything which claims to be 
beyond science must be a religion. It has been observed 
also that Christianity tends at the present day to be less 
a system of dogmas than a Christian life, i.e. a moral 
reform penetrating to the roots of one's being ; conse- 
quently, a new analogy has been discovered between 
religion and the revolutionary Socialism which aims at 
the apprenticeship, preparation, and even reconstruc- 
tion of the individual, — a gigantic task. But Bergson 
has taught us that it is not only religion which occupies 
the profounder region of our mental life ; revolutionary 
myths have their place there equally with religion. The 
arguments which Yves Guyot urges against Socialism on 


the ground that it is a religion, seem to me, then, to be 
founded on an imperfect acquaintance with the new 

Renan was very sutprised to discover that Socialists 
are beyond discouragement. " After each abortive experi- 
ment they recommence their work : the solution is not 
yet found, but it will be. The idea that no solution 
exists never occurs to them, and in this lies their strength." ^ 
The explanation given by Renan is superficial ; it regards 
Socialism as a Utopia, that is, as a thing which can be 
compared to observed realities ; if this were true, it would 
be scarcely possible to understand how confidence can 
survive so many failures. But by the side of the Utopias 
there have always been myths capable of urging on the 
workers to revolt. For a long time these myths were 
founded on the legends of the Revolution, and they pre- 
served all their value as long as these legends remained 
unshaken. To-day the confidence of the Socialists is 
greater than ever since the myth of the general strike 
dominates all the truly working-class movement. No 
failure proves anything against Socialism since the latter 
has become a work of preparation (for revolution) ; if 
they are checked, it merely proves that the apprentice- 
ship has been insufficient ; they must set to work again 
with more courage, persistence, and confidence than before ; 
their experience of labour has taught workmen that it 
is by means of patient apprenticeship that a man may 
become a true comrade, and it is also the only way of 
becoming a true revolutionary. ^ 

1 Renan, op. cit. vol. iii. p. 497. 

* It is extremely important to notice the analogy between the 
revolutionary state of mind and that which corresponds to the morale 
of the producers, I have indicated some remarkable resemblances 
at the end of these reflections, but there are many more analogies to 
be pointed out. 


The works of my friends have been treated with great 
contempt by the Socialists who mix in poHtics, but at 
the same time with much sympathy by people who do 
not concern themselves with parHamentary affairs. We 
cannot be suspected of seeking to carry on a kind of 
intellectual industry, and we protest every time people 
profess to confuse us with the intellectuals, who do, as a 
matter of fact, make the exploitation of thought their 
profession. The old stagers of democracy cannot under- 
stand why people should take so much trouble unless 
they secretly aim at the leadership of the working 
classes. However, we could not act in any other 

The man who has constructed a Utopia designed 
to make mankind happy is inclined to look upon the 
invention as his own personal property ; he believes 
that no one is in a better position than he is to apply his 
system. He thinks it very unreasonable that his writings 
do not procure him some post in the government. But 
we, on the contrary, have invented nothing at all, and 
even assert that nothing can be invented ; we have 
limited ourselves to defining the historical bearing of 
the notion of a general strike. We have tried to show 
that a new culture might spring from the struggle of the 
revolutionary trades unions against the employers and 
the State ; our greatest claim to originality consists in 
our having maintained that the proletariat can emanci- 
pate itself without being compelled to seek the guidance 
of that section of the middle classes which concerns itself 
professionally with matters of the intellect. We have 
thus been led to regard as essential in contemporary 
phenomena what was before regarded as accessory, 
and what is indeed really educative for a revolutionary 


proletariat that is serving its apprenticeship in struggle. 
It would be impossible for us to exercise any direct 
influence on such a work of formation. 

We may play a useful part if we limit ourselves to 
attacking middle-class thought in such a way as to put 
the proletariat on its guard against an invasion of ideas 
and customs from the hostile class. 

Men who have received an elementary education are 
generally imbued with a certain reverence for print as 
such, and they readily attribute genius to the people who 
attract the attention of the literary world to any great 
extent ; they imagine that they must have a great deal 
to learn from authors whose names are so often mentioned 
with praise in the newspapers ; they listen with singular 
respect to the commentaries that these literary prize- 
winners present to them. It is not easy to fight against 
these prejudices, but it is a very useful work ; we regard 
this task as being absolutely of the first importance, and 
we can carry it to a profitable conclusion without ever 
attempting to direct the working-class movement. The 
proletariat must be preserved from the experience of the 
Germans who conquered the Roman Empire ; the latter 
were ashamed of being barbarians, and put themselves 
to school with the rhetoricians of the Latin decadence ; 
they had no reason to congratulate themselves for having 
wished to be civiUsed. 

In the course of my career I have touclied on many 
subjects which might be considered to be outside the 
proper range of a SociaUst writer. I have endeavoured 
to show that the science whose marvellous results the 
middle class constantly boasts of is not as infallible as 
those who live by its exploitation would have us believe ; 
and that a study of the phenomena of the Socialist world 
would often furnish philosophers with an enlightenment 
which they do not find in the works of the learned. I do 
not believe, then, that I am labouring in vain, for in this 


way I help to ruin the prestige of middle-class culture, a 
prestige which up to now has been opposed to the 
complete development of the principle of the " class 

In the last chapter of my book, I have said that art 
is an anticipation of the kind of work that ought to be 
carried on in a highly productive state of society. It seems 
that this observation has been very much misunderstood 
by some of my critics, who have been imder the impression 
that I ^\dshed to propose as the socialist solution — an 
aesthetic education of the proletariat under the tutelage 
of modem artists. This would have been a singular 
paradox on my part, for the art that we possess to-day 
is a residue left to us by an aristocratic society, a residue 
which has, moreover, been greatly corrupted by the middle 
class. According to the most enlightened minds, it is 
greatly to be desired that contemporary art could renew 
itself by a more intimate contact with craftsmen ; academic 
art has used up the greatest geniuses without succeeding 
in producing anything which equals what has been given 
us by generations of craftsmen. I had in view something 
altogether different from such an imitation when I spoke 
of cin anticipation. I wished to show how one found in 
art (practised by its best representatives, and, above all, 
in its best periods) analogies which make it easier for us 
to imderstand what the qualities of the workers of the 
future would be. Moreover, so Uttle did I think of asking 
the Ecole des Beaux- Arts to provide a teaching suitable 
to the proletariat, that I based the morale of the producers 
not on an aesthetic education transmitted by the middle 
class, but on the feelings developed by the struggles of 
the workers against their masters. 

These observations lead us to recognise the enormous 
difference which exists between the new school and the 
anarchism which flourished twenty years ago in Paris. 
The middle class itself had much less admiration for its 



literary men and its artists than the anarchists of that 
time felt for them ; their enthusiasm for the celebrities 
of a day often surpassed that felt by disciples for the 
greatest masters of the past. We need not then be 
astonished that by a kind of compensation the novelists 
and the poets thus adulated have shown a sympathy 
for the anarchists which has often astonished people who 
do not know what a force vanity is in the artistic 

Intellectually, then, this kind of anarchism was entirely 
middle class, and the Guesdistes attacked it for this reason. 
They said that their adversaries, while proclaiming them- 
selves the irreconcilable enemies of the past, were them- 
selves the servile pupils of this cursed past; they observed, 
moreover, that the most eloquent dissertations on revolt 
could produce nothing, and that Hterature cannot change 
the course of history. The anarchists replied by showing 
that their adversaries had entered on a road which could 
not lead to the revolution they announced; by taking 
part in poHtical debates, Socialists, they said, will become 
merely reformers of a more or less radical type, and will 
lose the sense of their revolutionary formulas. Experience 
has quickly shown that the anarchists were right in this 
view, and that in entering into middle-class institutions, 
revolutionaries have been transformed by adopting the 
spirit of these institutions. All the deputies agree 
that there is very little difference between a middle- 
class representative and a representative of the pro- 

Many anarchists, tired at last of continually reading 
the same grandiloquent maledictions hurled at the 
capitalist system, set themselves to find a way which 
would lead them to acts which were really revolutionary. 
They became members of syndicates which, thanks to 
violent strikes, reahsed, to a certain extent, the social war 
they had so often heard spoken of. Historians will one 


day see in this entry of the anarchists into the syndicates 
one of the greatest events that has been produced 
in our time, and then the name of my poor friend 
Femand Pelloutier will be as well known as it deserves 
to be.i 

The anarchist writers who remained faithful to their 
former revolutionary literature do not seem to have looked 
with much favour upon the passage of their friends into 
the syndicates ; their attitude proves that the anarchists 
who became syndicalists showed real originality, and 
had not merely appUed theories which had been fabricated 
in philosophical coteries. 

Above all, they taught the workers that they need 
not be ashamed of acts of violence. Till that time it had 
been usual in the Socialist worid to attenuate or to excuse 
the violence of the strikers ; the new members of the 
syndicates regarded these acts of violence as normal 
manifestations of the struggle, and as a result of this, 
the tendencies at work in the syndicates, pushing them 
towards trades unionism, were abandoned. It was their 
revolutionary temperament which led them to this con- 
ception of violence, for it would be a gross error to suppose 
that these former anarchists carried over into the workers' 
associations any of their ideas about propaganda by 

Revolutionary syndicaUsm is not then, as many 
believe, the first confused form of the working-class move- 
ment, which is bound, in the end, to free itself from this 
youthfi4 error ; it has been, on the contrary, the produce 
of an improvement brought about by men who had just 
arrested a threatened deviation towards middle -class 
ideas. It might be compared to the Reformation, which 
wished to prevent Christianity submitting to the influence 

» I believe that L6on de Seilhac was the first to render justice to 
the high qualities of Fernand Pelloutier {Les Congres ouvriers en France, 
p. 272). 


of the humanists ; like the Reformation, revolutionary 
syndicalism may prove abortive, if it loses, as did the 
latter, the sense of its own originality ; it is this which 
gives such great interest to inquiries on proletarian 

July i^ih, 1907. 


The reflections that I submit to the readers of the Mouve- 
ment Socialistc on the subject of violence have been 
inspired by some simple observations about very evident 
facts, which play an increasingly marked role in the 
history of contemporary classes. 

For a long time I had been struck by the fact that 
the normal development of strikes is accompanied by an 
important series of acts of violence ; ^ but certain learned 
sociologists seek to disguise a phenomenon that every one 
who cares to use his eyes must have noticed. Revolu- 
tionary syndicalism keeps alive in the minds of the masses 
the desire to strike, and only prospers when important 
strikes, accompanied by violence, take place. Socialism 
tends to appear more and more as a theory of revolutionary 
syndicalism — or rather as a philosophy of modem history, 
in as far as it is under the influence of this syndicalism. 
It follows from these incontestable data, that if we desire 
to discuss Sociahsm with any benefit, we must first of all 
investigate the functions of violence in actual social 

* These Reflections were first published in the Mouvement Socialiste 
(first six months, 1906). 

* Cf. " Les Greves " in the Science sociale, October-November 1900. 
' In the Insegnamenti sociali della economia contemporanea (written 

in 1903, but not pubhshed till 1906) I had already, but in a very in- 
adequate manner, pointed out what seemed to me to be the function 
of violence, in maintaining the division between the proletariat and the 
middle classes (pp. 53-55). 



I do not believe that this question has yet been 
approached with the care it admits of ; I hope that these 
reflections will lead a few thinkers to examine the problems 
of proletarian violence more closely. I cannot too strongly 
recommend this investigation to the new school which, 
inspired by the principles of Marx rather than by the 
formulas taught by the ofl&cial proprietors of Marxism, 
is about to give to SociaHst doctrines a sense of reaUty 
and a gravity which it certainly has lacked for several 
years. Since the new school calls itself Marxist, syndicaHst, 
revolutionary, it should have nothing so much at heart 
as the investigation of the exact historical significance 
of the spontaneous movements which are being produced 
in the working classes, movements which may possibly 
ensure that the future direction of social development 
will conform to Marx's ideas. 

Socialism is a philosophy of the history of contemporary 
institutions, and Marx has alwa3rs argued as a philosopher 
of history when he was not led away by personal polemics 
to write about matters outside the proper scope of his own 

The Socialist imagines, then, that he has been trans- 
ported into a very distant future, so that he can consider 
actual events as elements of a long and completed develop- 
ment, and he can attribute to them the colour that they 
might take for a future philosopher. Such a procedure 
certainly presupposes a considerable use of hypothesis ; 
but without certain hypotheses about the future there 
can be no social philosophy, no reflection on evolution, 
j and no important action in the present even. The object 
of this study is a more thorough investigation of customs, 
and not a discussion of the merits or faults of certain 
important people. I want to find out how the feelings 
by which the masses are moved form themselves into 
groups ; all the discussions of the moraUsts about the 
motives for the actions of prominent men, and all psycho- 


logical analyses of character are, then, quite secondary 
in importance, and even altogether negUgible. 

It seems, however, that it is more difi&cult to reason 
in this way, when we are concerned with acts of violence, 
than with any other set of circumstances. That is due to 
our habit of looking on conspiracy as the typical example 
of violence, or as the anticipation of a revolution ; we are 
thus led to ask ourselves whether certain criminal acts 
could not be considered heroic, or at least meritorious, if 
we were to take into accoimt the happy consequences 
for their fellow-citizens anticipated by the perpetrators, 
as the result of their crimes. Certain individual criminal 
attempts have rendered such great services to democracy 
that the latter has often consecrated as great men those 
who, at the peril of their lives, have tried to rid it of its 
enemies ; it has done this the more readily since these 
great men were no longer living when the hour for 
dividing the spoils of victory arrived, and we know 
that the dead obtain admiration more easily than the 

Each time an outrage occurs, the doctors of the ethico- 
social sciences, who swarm in journalism, indulge in 
reflections on the question, Can the criminal act be 
excused, or sometimes even justified, from the point of 
view of the highest justice ? Then there is an irruption 
into the democratic press of that casuistry for which the 
Jesuits have so many times been reproached. 

I think it may be useful here to mention a note on the 
assassination of the Grand Duke Sergius which appeared 
in HumanitS of Febniary 18, 1905 ; the author was not 
one of those vulgar members of the Bloc whose inteUigence 
is hardly superior to that of a negrito, he was one of the 
leading Ughts of the State universities : Lucien Herr is one 
of those who ought to know what they are talking about. 
The title Just Reprisals warns us that the question is to 
be treated from a high ethical standpoint ; it is the 


judgment of the world ^ which is about to be pronounced. 
The author scrupulously endeavours to assign the responsi- 
bility, calculates the equivalence which ought to exist 
between a crime and its expiation, goes back to the 
original misdeeds which have engendered this series of 
acts of violence in Russia ; all this is a philosophy of 
history strictly in accordance with the pure principles of 
I the Corsican vendetta. Carried away by the lyricism of 
his subject, Lucien Herr concludes in the style of a prophet : 
" The battle will go on in this way, in suffering and in blood, 
abominable and odious, till that predestined day, which 
cannot be far off, when the throne itself, the homicidal 
throne, the throne which heaps up so many crimes, will 
fall down into the ditch that has to-day been dug for it." 
This prophecy has not yet been realised, but the true 
character of all great prophecies is never to be realised ; 
the homicidal throne is much more secure than the cash- 
box of Humanite. But, after all, w^hat can we learn from 
all this ? 

It is not the business of the historian to award prizes 
for virtue, to propose the erection of statues, or to establish 
any catechism whatever ; his business is to understand 
what is least individual in the course of events ; the 
questions which interest the chroniclers and excite 
novelists are those which he most willingly leaves on one 
side. And so I am not at all concerned to justify the 
perpetrators of violence, but to inquire into the function 
of violence of the working classes in contemporary SociaHsm. 

It seems to me that the problem of violence has been 
very badly formulated by many Socialists ; as a proof 
of this, I instance an article published in the Socialiste 
on October 21, 1905, by Rappoport. The author, who has 
written a book on the philosophy of history,^ ought, it 

1 This expression is not too strong, seeing that the author's studies 
have been mainly confined to Hegel. 

^ Ch. Rappoport, La Philosophic de i'histoire comme sciefice de 


seems to me, to have discussed the question by examining 
the remoter consequences of these events ; but, on the con- 
trary, he considered them under their most immediate, most 
paltry, and, consequently, least historical aspect. Accord- 
ing to him, syndicalism tends necessarily to opportimism, 
and as this law does not Seem to be verified in France, he 
adds : " If in some Latin countries it assumes revolutionary 
attitudes, that is mere appearance. It shouts louder, 
but that is always for the purpose of demanding reforms 
inside the framework of existing society. It is a meliorism 
by blows, but it is always meliorism." 

Thus there would be two kinds of meliorism : the one 
patronised by the Musee Social, the Direction du Travail, 
and Jaurds, which would work with the aid of maxims, 
half-Ues, and supphcation to eternal justice ; the other 
proceeds by blows — the latter being the only one that is 
within the scope of imeducated people who have not yet 
been enlightened by a knowledge of advanced social 
economics. These worthy people, democrats devoted 
to the cause of the Rights of man and the Duties of the 
informer, sociologist members of the Bloc, think that 
violence will disappear when popular education becomes 
more advanced ; they recommend, then, a great increase 
in the numbers of courses and lectures ; they hope to 
overturn revolutionary s>TidicaHsm by the breath of the 
professors. It is very strange that a revolutionary like 
Rappoport should agree with these worthy progressives * 
and their acolytes in their estimate of the meaning of 
syndicalism ; this can only be explained by admitting that 
even for the best-informed Socialists the problems of 
violence still remain very obscure. 

To examine the effects of violence it is necessary to 
start from its distant consequences and not from its 
immediate results. We should not ask whether it is 
more or less directly advantageous for contemporary 

* See note p. 13. Trans, 


workmen than adroit diplomacy would be, but we should 
inquire what will result from the introduction of violence 
into the relations of the proletariat with society. We 
are not comparing two kinds of reformism, but we are 
endeavouring to find out what contemporary violence is 
in relation to the future social revolution. 

Many will reproach me for not having given any 
information which might be useful for tactical purposes ; 
no formulas, no recipes. What then was the use of writing 
at all ? Clear-headed people will say that these studies 
are addressed to men who Hve outside the reahties of 
everyday life and outside the true movement — that is, 
outside editors* offices, parliamentary lobbies, and the 
ante -chambers of the Socialist financiers. Those who 
have become scientists merely by coming into contact 
with Belgian sociology will accuse me of having a meta- 
physical rather than a scientific mind.^ These are 
opinions which will scarcely touch me, since I have never 
paid any attention to the views of people who think vulgar 
stupidity the height of wisdom, and who admire above 
all men who speak and write without thinking. 

Marx also was accused by the great lords of positivism 
of having, in Capital, treated economics metaphysically ; 
they were astonished " that he had confined himself to 
a mere critical analysis of actual facts, instead of formulat- 
ing receipts." * This reproach does not seem to have 
moved him very much ; moreover, in his preface to his 
book, he had warned the reader that he would not 
determine the social position of any particular country, 
and that he would confine himself to an investigation 
of the laws of capitalist production, ** the tendencies 
working with iron necessity towards inevitable results." ^ 

* This expectation has been realised ; for in a speech in the Chambre 
des Deputes on May ii, 1907, Jaur^s called me " the metaphysician of 
Syndicalism," doubtless ironically, 

* Capital, Eng. trans., p. xxvi. » Loc. cit. p. xvii. 


One does not need a great knowledge of history to 
perceive that the mystery of historical development is 
only inteUigible to men who are far removed from super- 
ficial distm'bances ; the chroniclers and the actors of the 
drama do not see at all, what, later on, will be regarded 
as fimdamental ; so that one might formulate this \ 
apparently paradoxical rule, "It is necessary to be out- 
side in order to see the inside/* When we apply these 
principles to contemporary events we nm the risk of being 
taken for metaphysicians, but that is of no importance, 
for this time we are not at Brussels savez-vous, sais-tu, 
pour unefois. * If we are dissatisfied with the uns5^tematic 
views formed by common sense, we must follow a method 
altogether opposed to that of the sociologists, who found 
their reputation amongst stupid people by means of insipid 
and confused chatter; we must firmly resolve to ignore 
immediate applications, and think only of elaborating 
generalisations and concepts ; it is necessary to set aside 
all the favomite preoccupations of the politicians. I hope 
that in the end it will be recognised that I have never 
broken this rule. 

Though they may lack other quahties, these reflections 
possess one merit which cannot be questioned ; it is quite 
evident that they are inspired by a passionate love of 
truth. Love of truth has become a rare enough quality ; 
the members of the Bloc despise it profoundly ; official 
Socialists regard it as having anarchical tendencies ; 
poUticians and their haingers-on cannot sufficiently insult 
the wretched people who prefer truth to the dehghts of 

* Some Belgian comrades have been offended by these innocent 
jokes, which nevertheless I retain here ; Belgian Socialism is best 
known in France through Vandevelde, one of the most useless creatures 
that ever existed, who not being able to console himself for having been 
born in a country too small to give scope to his genius, came to Paris 
and gave lectures on all kinds of subjects, and who can be reproached, 
among other things, for having made an enormous profit on a very 
small intellectual capital. I have already said what I think of him in 
the Introduction d I'iconomie moderne, pp. 42-49. 


power. But there are still some honest people left in 
France, and it is for them alone that I have always 

The greater my experience the more I have recognised 
that in the study of historical questions a passion for 
truth is worth more than the most learned methodologies ; 
it enables one to break through conventional wrappings, 
to penetrate to the foundations of things, and to grasp 
reality. There has never been a great historian who has 
not been altogether carried along by this passion; and 
looking at this matter closely, one sees that it is this passion 
which has given rise to so many happy intuitions. 

I do not claim that I have, in this book, said every- 
thing that there is to say about violence, and still less to 
have produced a systematic theory of violence. I have 
merely reunited and revised a series of articles which 
appeared in an Italian review, // Divenire sociale} a 
review which maintains, on the other side of the Alps, 
the good fight against the exploiters of popular creduHty. 
The articles were written without any fixed plan ; I have 
not tried to rewrite them, because I did not know how to 
set about giving a didactic appearance to such an exposi- 
tion ; it even seemed to me better to preserve their imtidy 
arrangement, since in that form they will perhaps more 
easily awake thought. We should always be careful 
in opening up a little-known subject, not to trace its 
boundaries too rigorously, for in this way the door is 
closed to the many new facts which arise from unforeseen 
circumstances. Time after time the theorists of Socialism 
have been embarrassed by contemporary history. They 
had constructed magnificent formulas, clear-cut and 

* The last four chapters have been much more developed than they 
were in the Italian text. I have thus been able to give more space to 
philosophic considerations The Italian articles have been collected 
in a brochure under the title Lo Sciopero generaU e la violenza with a 
preface by Enrico Leone. 


symmetrical, but they could not make them fit the 
facts. Rather than abandon their theories, they pre- 
ferred to declare that the most important facts were mere 
anomalies, which science must ignore if it is to obtain 
a real understanding of the whole. 



1. War of the poorer groups against the rich groups — Opposition 
of democracy to the division into classes — Methods of buying 
social peace — The corporative mind. 

II. Illusions relating to the disappearance of violence — The mechan- 
ism of conciliation and the encouragement which it gives to 
strikers — Influence of fear on social legislation and its con- 


Everybody complains that discussions about Socialism 
are generally exceedingly obscure. This obscurity is 
due, for the most part, to the fact that contemporary 
Socialists use a terminology which no longer corresponds 
to their ideas. The best known among the people who 
call themselves revisionists do not wish to appear to be 
abandoning certain phrases, which have served for a very 
long time as a label to characterise Socialist literature. 
When Bernstein, perceiving the enormous contradiction 
between the language of social democracy and the true 
nature of its activity, urged his German comrades to have 
the courage to appear what they were in reality,^ and to 
revise a doctrine that had become mendacious, there was 
a tmiversal outburst of indignation at his audacity ; arid 

1 Bernstein complains of the pettifoggery and cant which reigns 
among the social democrats {Socialisme thiorique et socicUdimocratie 
pratique, French translation, p. 277). He addresses these words from 
Schiller to social democracy : " Let it dare to appear what it is " 
(p. 238). 



the refomiists themselves were not the least eager of the 
defenders of the ancient formula. I remember hearing 
well-known French Socialists say that they found it easier 
to accept the tactics of Millerand than the arguments of 

This idolatry of words plays a large part in the history 
of all ideologies ; the preservation of a Marxist vocabulary 
by people who have become completely estranged from 
the thought of Marx constitutes a great misfortime for 
Socialism. The expression " class war," for example, is 
employed in the most improper manner ; and imtil a 
precise meaning can be given to this term, we must give 
up all hope of a reasonable exposition of Socialism. 

A. To most people the class war is the principle of 
Socialist tactics. That means that the Socialist party 
founds its electoral successes on the clashing of interests 
which exist in an acute state between certain groups, and 
that, if need be, it would undertake to make this hostility 
still more acute ; their candidates ask the poorest and 
most numerous class to look upon themselves as forming 
a corporation, and they offer to become the advocates 
of this corporation ; they promise to use their influence as 
representatives to improve the lot of the disinherited. 
Thus we are not very far from what happened in the. Greek 
states ; Parliamentary Socialists are very much akin to the 
demagogues who clamoured constantly for the abolition of 
debts, and the division of landed property, who put all 
public charges upon the rich, and invented plots in order 
to get large fortimes confiscated. " In the democracies in 
which the crpwd is above the law," says Aristotle, " the 
demagogues, by their continual attacks upon the rich, 
always divide the city into two camps . . . the oligarchs 
should abandon all swearing of oaths Uke those they 
swear to-day; for there are cities in which they have 
taken this oath — I will be the constant enemy of the 


people, and I will do them all the evil that lies in my 
power." 1 Here, certainly, is a war between two classes 
as clearly defined as it can be ; but it seems to me absurd 
to assert that it was in this way that Marx understood 
the class war, which, according to him, was the essence 
of Socialism. 

I beHeve that the authors of the French law of August 
II, 1848, had their heads full of these classical reminis- 
cences when they decreed punishment against all those 
who, by speeches and newspaper articles, sought " to 
trouble the public peace by stirring up hatred and con- 
tempt amongst the citizens." The terrible insurrection 
of the month of June was just over, and it was firmly 
believed that the victory of the Parisian workmen would 
have brought on, if not an attempt to put commimism 
into practice, at least a series of formidable requisitions 
on the rich in favour of the poor ; it was hoped that an 
end would be put to civil wars by increasing the difficulty 
of propagating doctrines of hatred, which might raise the 
proletariat against the middle class. 

Nowadays Parliamentary Socialists no longer enter- 
tain the idea of insurrection ; if they still occasionally 
speak of it, it is merely to give themselves airs of import- 
ance ; they teach that the ballot-box has replaced the 
gun ; but the means of acquiring power may have changed 
without there being any change of mental attitude. 
Electoral literature seems inspired by the purest demagogic 
doctrines ; Socialism makes its appeal to the discontented 
without troubling about the place they occupy in the 
world of production ; in a society as complex as ours, 
and as subject to economic upheavals, there is an enormous 
number of discontented people in all classes — that is why 
Socialists are often found in places where one would least 
expect to meet them. Parliamentary Socialism speaks 
as many languages as it has types of clients. It makes 

» Aristotle, Politics, v. 9, §§ 10, 11. 


its appeal to workmen, to small employers of labour, to 
peasants ; and in spite of Engels, it aims at reaching the 
farmers ; ^ it is at times patriotic ; at other times it 
declares against the Army. It is stopped by no con- 
tradiction, experience having shown that it is possible, 
in the course of an electoral campaign, to group together 
forces which, according to Marxian conceptions, should 
normally be antagonistic. Besides, cannot a Member of 
Parhament be of ser\Tice to electors of every economic 
situation ? 

In the end the term " proletariat " became synony- 
mous with oppressed ; and there are oppressed in all 
classes : ^ German Socialists have taken a great interest 
in the adventures of the Princess of Cobiu-g.' One of 
our most distinguished reformers, Henri Turot, for a 
long time one of the editors of the Petite Repuhlique^ and 
mimicipal coimcillor of Paris, has written a book on the 
" proletariat of love," by which title he designates the 
lowest class of prostitutes. If one of these da}^ the suffrage 
is granted to women, he will doubtless be called upon 

> Engels. La Question agraire et le sociaJisme. Critique du programme 
du parti ouvrier franf/ii^. translated in the Mouvement sociaJiste. October 
15, 1900, p. 453. It has often been pointed out that certain Socialist 
candidates had separate bills for the town and the country. 

' Hampered by the monopoly of the licensed stockbrokers {agents 
de change), the other brokers {coitlissiers) of the Bourse thus form a 
financial proletariat, and among them more than one Socialist admirer 
of Jaur^s may be found. [Trans. Note. — The coulissiers are only 
allowed to deal in certain markets — the Kaffir, Argentine, etc. They 
are constantly conducting press campaigns against the privileged 
brokers. Many of them are naturalised German Jews, and the licensed 
brokers utilise this fact in defending their own position.] 

• The SociaUst deputy Sudekum, the best-dressed man in Berlin, 
played a large part in the abduction of the Princess of Coburg ; let us 
hope that he had no financial interest in this affaire. At that time 
he represented Jaurds's newspaper at Berlin. 

* H. Turot was for some considerable time one of the editors of the 
nationalist paper L' Eclair, and of the Petite Republique at the same 
time. When Judet took over the management of U Eclair he dismissed 
his Socialist contributor. 



to draw up a statement of the claims of this special 

B. Contemporary democracy in France finds itself 
somewhat bewildered by the tactics of the class war. 
This explains why ParHamentary Socialism does not 
mingle with the main body of the parties of the extreme 

In order to understand this situation, we must remember 
the important part played by revolutionary war in our 
history ; an enormous nimiber of our poHtical ideas 
originated from war ; war presupposes the union of 
national forces against the enemy, and our French 
historians have alwa5rs severely criticised those insurrec- 
tions which hampered the defence of the country. It 
seems that our democracy is harder on its rebels than 
monarchies are ; the Vend^ens are still denounced daily 
as infamous traitors. All the articles pubUshed by 
Cl^menceau to combat the ideas of Herve are inspired 
by the purest revolutionary tradition, and he says so 
himself clearly : "I stand by and shall always stand by 
the old-fashioned patriotism of our fathers of the Revolu- 
tion," and he scoffs at people who would " suppress 
international wars in order to hand us over in peace to 
the amenities of civil war" (Aurore, May 12, 1905). 

For some considerable time the Republicans denied 1 
that there was any struggle between the classes in France ; :| 
they had so great a horror of revolt that they would not 1 
recognise the facts. Judging all things from the abstract \ 
point of view of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, 
they said that the legislation of 1789 had been created 
in order to abolish all distinction of class in law ; for 
that reason they were opposed to proposals for social 
legislation, which, nearly always, reintroduced the idea 
of class, and distinguished certain groups of citizens as 
being unfitted. for the use of liberty. '* The revolution 


was supposed to have suppressed class distinction,*' 
wrote Joseph Reinach sadly in the Matin of April 19, 
1895 ; " but they spring up again at every step. . . . 
It is necessary to point out these aggressive returns 
of the past, but they must not be allowed to pass un- 
challenged ; they must be resisted." * 

Electoral dealing led many Republicans to recognise 
that the Socialists obtain great successes by utilising the 
passions of jealousy, of deception, or of hate, which exist 
in the world ; thenceforward they became aware of the 
class war, and many have borrowed the jargon of the 
Parliamentary Socialists : in this way the party that is 
called Radical SociaHst came into being. Cl^menceau 
asserts even that he knows moderates who became SociaUsts 
in twenty-four hours. " In France," he says, " the 
Socialists that I know* are excellent Radicals who, thinking 
that social reforms do not advance quickly enough to 
please them, conceive that it would be good tactics to 
claim the greater in order to get the less. How many 
names and how many secret avowals I could quote to 
support what I say ! But that would be useless, for 
nothing could be less mysterious" (Aurore, August 14, 


L6on Bourgeois — ^who was not willing to adapt himself 
completely to the new methods, and who, for that reason 
perhaps, left the Chamber of Deputies for the Senate — 
said, at the congress of his party in July 1905 : " The 
class war is a fact, but a cruel fact. I do not believe that 
it is by prolonging this war that the solution of the problem 
will be attained ; I believe that the solution rather hes in its 
suppression ; men must be brought to look upon themselves 
as partners in the same work." It would therefore seem 
to be a question of creating social peace by legislation, thus 

* J. Reinach, Dimagogues et socialistes, p. 198. 
■ Clemenceau knows the Socialists in Parliament exceedingly well, 
and from long experience. 



demonstrating to the poor that the Government has no 
greater care than that of improving their lot, and by 
imposing the necessary sacrifices on people who possess 
a fortune judged to be too great for the harmony of the 

CapitaHst society is so rich, and the future appears 
to it in such optimistic colours, that it endures the most 
frightful burdens without complaining overmuch : in 
America politicians waste large taxes shamelessly ; in 
Europe, the expenditure in military preparation increases 
every year ; ^ social peace might very well be bought 
by a few supplementary sacrifices.* Experience shows 
that the middle classes allow themselves to be plundered 
quite easily, provided that a little pressure is brought to 
bear, and that they are intimidated by the fear of revolu- 
tion ; that party will possess the future which can most 
skilfully manipulate the spectre of revolution ; the radical 
party is beginning to understand this ; but, however 
clever its clowns may be, it will have some difliculty in 
finding any who can dazzle the big Jew^ bankers as well 
as Jaures and his friends do. 

C. The Syndicalist organisation gives a third value 
to the class war. In each branch of industry employers 
and workmen form antagonistic groups, which have 
continual discussions, which negotiate and make agree- 
ments. Socialism brings along its terminology of class 

» At The Hague Conference the German delegate declared that his 
country bore the expense of armed peace with ease ; L^on Bourgeois 
held that France bore " quite as lightly the personal and financial 
obUgations which the national defence imposed on its citizens." Ch. 
Guieysse, who quotes this speech, thinks that the Tsar had asked for 
the limitation of military expenditure because Russia was not rich 
enough yet to maintain herself at the level of the great capitalist 
countries {La France ei la paix armie, p. 45). 

3 That is why Bhand told, on June 9, 1907, his constituents at 
Saint-Etienne that the Republic had made a sacred pledge to the 
workers about old-age pensions. 


war, and thus complicates conflicts which might haye 
remained of a purely private order ; corporative exclusive- 
hess, which resembles the local or the racial spirit, is 
thereby consolidated, and those who represent it Hke to 
imagine that they are accomplishing a higher duty and 
are doing excellent work for Socialism. 

It is well known that htigants who are strangers in a 
town are generally very badly treated by the judges of 
commercial courts sitting there, who try to give judg- 
ment in favour of their fellow -townsmen. Railway 
companies pay fantastic prices for pieces of ground, the 
value of which is fixed by juries recruited from among 
the neighbouring landowners. I have seen Italian sailors 
overwhelmed with fines, for pretended infractions of 
the law, by the fishing arbitrators with whom they had 
come to compete on the strength of ancient treaties. 
Many workmen are in the same way inchned to assert 
that in all their contests with the employers, the worker 
has morality and justice on his side ; I have heard the 
secretary of a syndicate (so fanatically a reformer as 
distinct from a revolutionary that he denied the oratorical 
talent of Guesde) declare that nobody had class feeling so 
strongly developed as he had, — because he argued in the 
way I have just indicated, — ^and he concluded that the 
revolutionaries did not possess the monopoly of the just 
conception of the class war. 

It is quite understandable that many people have 
considered this corporative spirit as no better than the 
parish spirit, and also that they should have attempted 
to destroy it by employing methods very analogous to 
those which have so much weakened the jealousies which 
formerly existed in France between the various provinces. 
A more general culture and the intermixing with people 
of another region rapidly destroy provincialism : would 
it not be possible to destroy the corporative feeling by 
frequently bringing the important men in the sjudicates 


into connection with the employers, and by furnishing 
them with opportunities of taking part in discussions of 
a general order in mixed commissions ? Experience has 
shown that this is feasible. 


The efforts which have been made to remove the 
causes of hostility which exist in modem society have 
undoubtedly had some effect, although the peacemakers 
may be much deceived about the extent of their work. 
By ishowing a few of the of&cials of the syndicates that 
the middle classes are not such terrible men as they had 
believed, by loading them with poHteness in commissions 
set up in ministerial of&ces or at the MusSe social, and by 
giving them the impression that there is a natural and 
Republican equity, above class prejudices and hatreds, it 
has been foimd possible to change the attitude of a few 
former revolutionaries.* These conversions of a few of 
their old chiefs have caused great confusion in the mind 
of the working classes ; the former enthusiasm of more 
than one Socialist has given place to discomragement ; 
many working men have wondered whether the trades 
imion organisation was not becoming a kind of poUtics, 
a means of getting on. 

But simultaneously with this evolution, which filled 
the heart of the peacemakers with joy, there was a re- 
crudescence of the revolutionary spirit in a large section 
of the proletariat. Since the Republican Government and 
the philanthropists have taken it into their heads to 
exterminate Socialism by developing social legislation, 

1 In the matter of social " clowneries " there are very few new 
things under the sun. Aristotle had already laid down the rules of 
social peace : he says that demagog " should in their harangues 
appear to be concerned only with the u erest of the rich, just as in 
oHgarchies the government should only s em to have in view the 
interests of the people " {loc. cit). That is text which should be 
inscribed on the door of the offices of the Directi«a du Travail. 


and by moderating the resistance of the employers in 
strikes, it has been observed that, more than once, the 
conflicts have become more acute than formerly.^ This 
is often explained away by saying that it was an accident, 
the result simply of the survival of old usages ; people 
Uke to lull themselves with the hope that everything will 
go perfectly well on the day when manufacturers have 
a better understanding of the usages of social peace.* 
I beUeve, on the contrary, that we are in the presence ! 
of a phenomenon which flows quite naturally from the I 
conditions in which this pretended pacification is carried j 

I observe, first of all, that both the theories and action 
of the peacemakers are founded on the notion of duty, , 
and that duty is something entirely indefinite — ^while law 
seeks rigid definition. This difference is due to the fact 
that the latter finds a real basis in the economics of pro- 
duction, while the former is foimded on sentiments of 
resignation, goodness, and of sacrifices ; and who can judge 
whether the man who submits to duty has been sufficiently 
resigned, sufficiently good, sufficiently self-sacrificing ? 
The Christian is convinced that he will never succeed in 
doing all that the gospel enjoins on him ; when he is 
free from economic ties (in a monastery) he invents all 
sorts of pious obUgations, so that he may bring his life 
nearer to that of Christ, who loved men to such an extent 
that he accepted an ignominious fate that they might be 

In the economic world everybody limits his duty by > 
his imwillingness to give up certain profits. While the j 
employer will be always convinced that he has done the I 

* Cf. G. Sorel, Insegnamenti sodali, p. 343. 

* In his speech of May 11, 1907, Jaurds said that nowhere had there 
been such violence as there was in England during the period when 
both the employers and Government refused to recognise the trade 
unions. " They have given way ; there is now vigorous and strong 
action, but which is at the same time legal, firm, and wise." 


\ whole of his duty, the worker will be of a contrary opinion, 
and no argument could possibly settle the matter : the first 
will believe that he has been heroic, and the second will 
treat this pretended heroism as shameful exploitation. 

Our great pontiffs of duty refuse to look upon a con- 
tract to work as being of the nature of a sale ; nothing 
is so simple as a sale ; nobody troubles himself to find 
out whether the grocer or his customer is right when they 
do not agree on the price of cheese ; the ciistomer goes 
where he can buy more cheaply, and the grocer is obUged 
to change his prices when his customers leave him. But 
when a strike takes place it is quite another thing. All 
the well-intentioned people, all the " progressives " and 
the friends of the Republic, begin to discuss which of the 
two parties is in the right : to he in the right is to have 
accomplished one's whole social duty. Le Play has given 
much advice on the means of organising labour with a 
view to the strict fulfilment of duty ; but he could not 
fix the extent of the mutual obligations ; he left it to 
the tact of each, to the just estimation of the duties 
attaching to one's place in the social hierarchy, to the 
master's intelligent appreciation of the real needs of the 

The employers generally agree to discuss disputes on 
these lines ; to the claims of the workers they reply that 
they have already reached the limit of possible conces- 
sions — while the philanthropists wonder whether the 
seUing price will not permit of a slight rise in wages. 
Such a discussion presupposes that it is possible to 
ascertain the exact extent of a man's social duty, and 
i what sacrifices an employer must continue to make in 
/ order to carry out the duties of his social position. As there is 

* Le Play, Organisation du travail, chap. ii. § 21. According to this 
writer, more attention should be paid to moral forces than to the 
systems that are invented in order to regulate wages in a more or less 
automatic manner. 


no process of reasoning which can resolve such a problem, 
wiseacres suggest recourse to arbitration ; Rabelais 
would have suggested recourse to the chance of the dice. 
When the strike is important, deputies loudly demand 
an inquiry, with the object of discovering whether the 
industrial leaders are properly fultilling their dniies as 
good masters. 

Certain results are obtained in this way — which never- 
theless seem absurd — because on the one hand the large 
employers of labour have been brought up with religious, 
philanthropic, and ci\ac ideas ; ^ and on the other hand 
because they cannot show themselves too stubborn, when 
certain demands are made by p)eople occupying a high 
position in the country. Concihators stake their vanity on 
succeeding, and they would be extremely hurt if industrial 
leaders prevented them from making social peace. The 
workmen are in a much more favourable position, because 
the prestige of the peacemakers is v^ery much less with 
them than with the capitalists ; the latter give way, 
therefore, much more easily than the workers, in order 
to allow these well-intentioned folk the glory of ending 
the confhct. It is noticeable that these proceedings very 
rarely succeed when the matter is in the hands of workmen 
who have become hch : Hterary, moral, or sociological 
considerations have very Httle effect upon people bom 
outside the ranks of the middle classes. 

People who are called upon to intervene in disputes in 
this way are misled by what they have seen of certain 
secretaries of syndicates, whom they find much less 
irreconcilable than they expected, and who seem to them 
to be ripe for a recognition of the idea of social peace. 
In the course of conciHation meetings more than one 
revolutionary has shown that he aspires to become a 
member of the middle class, and there are many intelligent , 

1 About the forces which tend to maintain sentiments of moderation, 
cf. Insegnanitnti sociaJi, part iii. chap. v. 


people who imagine that socialistic and revolutionary 
conceptions are only accidents that might be avoided 
by estabUshing better relations between the classes. 
They beUeve that the working-class world looks at the 
economic question entirely from the standpoint of duty, 
and they imagine that harmony would be estabHshed if 
a better social education were given to the citizens. 

Let us see what influences are behind the other move- 
ment that tends to make conflicts more acute. 

Workmen quickly perceive that the labour of con- 
ciliation or of arbitration rests on no economico- judicial 
basis, and their tactics have been conducted — ^instinctively 
perhaps — ^in accordance with this datum. Since the 
feelings, and, above all, the vanity of the peacemakers 
are in question, a strong appeal must be made to their 
imaginations, and they must be given the idea that they 
have to accomphsh a titanic task : demands are piled up, 
therefore, figures fixed in a rather haphazard way, and 
there are no scruples about exaggerating them; often 
the success of the strike depends on the cleverness with 
which a syndicaUst (who thoroughly understands the 
spirit of social diplomacy) has been able to introduce 
claims, in themselves very minor, but capable of giving 
the impression that the employers are not fulfilling 
their social duty. It often happens that writers who 
concern themselves with these questions are astonished 
that several days pass before the strikers have settled 
what exactly they have to demand, and that in the end 
demands are put forward which had not been mentioned 
in the course of the preceding negotiations. This is 
easily understood when we consider the bizarre conditions 
under which the discussion between the interested parties 
is carried on. 

I am surprised that there are no strike professionals 
who would undertake to draw up Usts of the workers* 
claims ; they would obtain all the more success in con- 


ciliation councils as they would not let themselves be 
dazzled by fine words so easily as the workers' delegates.^ 

When the strike is finisjied the workmen do not forget 
that the employers at first declared that no concession 
was possible ; they are led thus to the belief that the 
employers are either ignorant or Uars. This result is 
not conducive to the development of social peace ! 

So long as the workers submitted without protest to 
the exactions of the employers, they believed that the 
will of their masters was completely dominated by 
economic necessities ; they perceived, after the strike, 
that this necessity is not of a very rigid kind, and that if 
energetic pressure from below is brought to bear on the 
masters, the latter will find some means of hberating 
themselves from the pretended fetters of economic 
necessity ; thus within practical limits capitalism appears 
to the workers to be unfettered, and they reason as if it were 
entirely so. What in their eyes restrains this liberty is 
not the necessities of competition but the ignorance of 
the employers. Thus is introduced the notion of the . 
inexhaustibility of production, which is one of the postu- 11 
lates of the theory of class war in the Socialism of Marx.* * J 

Why then speak of social duty ? Duty has some 
meaning in a society in which all the parts are intimately 
connected and responsible to one another ; but if capital- 
ism is inexhaustible, joint responsibility is no longer 
foimded on economic realities, and the workers think 
they would be dupes if they did not demand all they can 
obtain ; they look upon the employer as an adversary 
with whom one comes to terms after a war. Social duty 
no more exists than does international duty. 

* The French law of December 27, 1892, seems to have foreseen this 
possibility ; it lays down that delegates on conciliation boards should 
be chosen among the interested parties ; it thus keeps out these pro- 
fessionals whose presence would render the prestige of the authorities 
and of philajithropists precarious. 

* G. Sorel, Insegnamenti socitUi, p. 390. 


These ideas are somewhat confused, I admit, in many 
minds ; but they exist in a much more stable manner 
than the partisans of social peace imagine ; the latter are 
deluded by appearances, and never penetrate to the 
hidden roots of the existing tendencies of Socialism. 

Before passing to other considerations, it must be 
noticed that our Latin countries present one great obstacle 
to the formation of social p)eace ; the classes are more 
sharply separated by external characteristics than they 
are in Saxon countries ; these separations very much 
embarrass Syndicalist leaders when they abandon their 
former manners and take up a position in the official or 
philanthropic circles.^ These circles have welcomed 
them with great pleasure, since it has been perceived that 
the gradual transformation of trades union officials into 
members of the middle classes might produce excellent 
results ; but their comrades distrust them. In France 
this distrust has become much more definite since a great 
number of anarchists have entered the Syndicalist move- 
ment ; because the anarchist has a horror of everj'thing 
which recalls the proceedings of pohticians — a class of 
people devoured by the desire to climb into superior 
classes, and having already the capitahst mind while yet 
poor. 2 

Social pohtics have introduced new elements which 
must now be taken into accoimt. First of all, it must be 

1 Everybody who has seen trades union leaders close at hand is 
struck with the extreme diderence which exists between France and 
England from this point of view ; the English trades union leaders 
rapidly become gentlemen, without anybody blaming them for it 
(P. de Rousiers. Le Trade-unionisme en AngUUrre, p. 309 and p. 322). 
While correcting this proof, I read an article by Jacques Bardaux, 
pointing out that a carpenter and a miner had been made knights by 
Edward VII. [Dehats, December 16, 1907). 

• Some years ago Arsene Dumont invented the term social capillarity 
to express the slow chmbing of the classes. If Syndicalism submitted to 
the induence of the pacinsts, it would be a powerful agent of social 


noticed that the workers count to-day in the world by 
the same right as the different productive groups which 
demand to be protected ; they must be treated with 
solicitude just as the vine-growers or the sugar manu- 
facturers.^ There is nothing settled about Protectionism ; 
the custom duties are fixed so as to satisfy the desires of 
very influential people who wish to increase their incomes ; 
social politics proceed in the same manner. The Pro- 
tectionist Government professes to have knowledge which 
permits it to judge what should be granted to each group 
so as to defend the producers without injuring the con- 
simiers ; similarly, in social politics it declares, that it 
will take into consideration the interests of the employers 
and those of the workers. 

Few people, outside the faculties of law, are so simple as 1 
to beUeve that the State can carry out such a programme : I 
in actual fact, the ParHamentarians decide on a compro- 
mise that partially satisfies the interests of those who are 
most influential in elections without provoking too Uvely 
protests from those who are sacrificed. There is no other 
rule than the true or presumed interest of the electors ; 
every day the customs commission recasts its tariffs, and 
it declares that it will not stop recasting them until it 
succeeds in securing prices which it considers remimera- 
tive to the people for whom it has undertaken the part 
of providence : it keeps a watchful eye on the operations 
of importers ; every lowering of price attracts its attention 
and provokes inquiries with the object of discovering 
whether it would not be possible to raise values again 
artificially. Social politics are carried on in exactly the 

1 It has often been pointed out that the workers' organisation in 
England is a simple union of interests, for the purposes of immediate 
matetial advantages. Some vrriters are very pleased with this situation 
because, quite rightly, they see in it an obstacle to Socialistic propa- 
ganda. To embarrass the Socialists, even at the price of economic 
progress and of the safety of the culture of the future, that is the great 
aim of certain great idealists dear to the philanthropic middle classes. 



same way ; on June 27, 1905, the rapporteur ^ of a law on 
the length of the hours of work m the mmes said, in the 
Chamber of Deputies : " Should the appUcation of the 
law give rise to disappointment among the workmen, 
we have undertaken to lay a new bill before the house." 
This worthy man spoke exactly like the rapporteur of a 
tariff law. 

There are plenty of workmen who understand per- 
fectly well that all the trash of ParHamentary Uterature 
only serves to disguise the real motives by which the 
Government is influenced. The Protectionists succeed 
by subsidising a few important party leaders or by 
financing newspapers which support the politics of these 
party leaders ; the workers have no money, but they have 
at their disposal a much more efl&cacious means of action ; 
they can inspire fear, and for several years past they 
have availed themselves of this resource. 

At the time of the discussion of the law regulating 
labour in mines, the question of the threats addressed to 
the Government cropped up several times : on February 5, 
1902, the president of the commission told the Chamber 
that those in power had " lent an attentive ear to clamour- 
ings from without ; that they had been inspired by a 
sentiment of benevolent generosity in allowing them- 
selves to be moved {despite the tone in which they were 
couched), by the claims of the working classes and the 
long cry of suffering of the workers in the mines." A 
little later he added : '* We have accomplished a work 
of social justice, ... a work of benevolence also, in 
going to those who toil and suffer, hke friends solely 
desirous of working in peace and under honourable 
conditions, and we must not by a brutal and too ego- 
tistic refusal to unbend, allow them to give way to 
impulses which, while not actual revolts, would yet have 
as many victims." All these confused phrases served 
* See Translator's Note, p. 162. 


to hide the terrible fear which clutched this grotesque 
deputy.^ In the sitting of November 6, 1904, at the 
Senate, the minister declared that the Government was 
incapable of giving way to threats, but that it was 
necessary to open not only ears and mind, but also the 
heart " to respectful claims " (!) ; a good deal of water had 
passed imder the bridges since the day when the Govern- 
ment had promised to pass the law imder the threat of a 
general strike.* 

I could choose other examples to show that the most 
decisive factor in social pohtics is the cowardice of the 
Government. This was shown in the plainest possible 
way in the recent discussions on the suppression of 
registry ofi&ces, and on the law which sent to the civil 
courts appeals against the decisions of the arbitrators in 
industrial 'disputes. Nearly all the Syndicahst leaders 
know how to make excellent use of this situation, and 
they teach the workers that it is not at all a question of 
demanding favours, but that they must profit by middle- 
class cowardice to impose the will of the proletariat. 
These tactics are supported by so many facts that they 
were bound to take root in the working-class world. 

One of the things which appear to me to have most 
astonished the workers during the last few years has been 
the timidity of the forces of law and order in the presence 
of a riot ; magistrates who have the right to demand the 
services of soldiers dare not use their power to the utmost, 
and officers allow themselves to be abused and struck 
with a patience hitherto imknown in them. It is 

1 This imbecile has become Minister of Commerce, All his speeches j 
on this question are full of balderdash ; he has been a lunacy doctor,! 
and has perhaps been influenced by the logic and the language of his' 

* The Minister declared that he was creating " real democracy," 
and that it was demagogy " to give way to external pressure, to haughty 
summonses, which, for the most part, are only higher bids and baits 
addressed to the credulity of people whose hfe is laborious." 


becoming more and more evident every day that work- 
ing-class violence possesses an extraordinary efficacity 
in strikes: prefects, fearing that they may be obliged 
to use force against insurrectionary violence, bring pres- 
sure to bear on employers in order to compel them to 
give way ; the safety of factories is now looked upon as 
a favour which the prefect may dispense as he pleases ; 
consequently he arranges the use of his poUce so as to 
intimidate the two parties, and skilfully brings them to 
an agreement. 

Trades union leaders have not been long in grasping 
the full bearing of this situation, and it must be admitted 
that they have used the weapon that has been put into 
their hands with great skill. They endeavour to intimid- 
ate the prefects by popular demonstrations which might 
lead to serious conflicts with the police, and they com- 
mend violence as the most efficacious means of obtaining 
concessions. At the end of a certain time the obsessed 
and frightened administration nearly always intervenes 
with the masters and forces an agreement upon them, 
which becomes an encouragement to the propagandists 
of violence. 

Whether we approve or condemn what is cadled the 
revolutionary and direct method, it is evident that it is not 
on the point of disappearing ; in a comitry as warlike 
as France there are profound reasons which would assure 
a considerable popularity for this method, even if its 
enormous efficacy had not been demonstrated by so many 
examples. This is the one great social fact of the present 
hour, and we must seek to understand its bearing. 

I cannot refrain from noting down here a reflection 
made by Clemenceau \\ith regard to our relations with 
Germany, wlii^h appHes equally well to social conflicts 
when they take a \'iolent aspect (which seems likely to 
become more and more general in proportion as a cowardly 


middle class continues to pursue the chimera of social 
peace) : " There is no better means," he said (than the 
policy of perpetual concessions), *' of making the opposite 
party ask for more and more. Every man or every power 
whose action consists solely in surrender can only finish 
by self-annihilation. Everything that lives resists; 
that which does not resist allows itself to be cut up 
piecemeal" [Aurore, August 15, 1905). 

A social poHcy founded on middle -class cowardice, 
which consists in always surrendering before the threat 
of violence, cannot fail to engender the idea that the 
middle class is condemned to death, and that its disappear- 
ance is only a matter of time. Thus every conflict which 
gives rise to violence becomes a vanguard fight, and 
nobody can foresee what will arise from such engagements ; 
although the great battle never comes to a head, yet 
each time they come to blows the strikers hope that it 
is the beginning of the great Napoleonic battle (that which 
will definitely crush the vanquished) ; in this way the 
practice of strikes engenders the notion of a catastrophic 

A keen observer of the contemporary proletarian 
movement has expressed the same ideas : " They, like 
their ancestors (the French revolutionaries) , are for struggle, 
for conquest ; they desire to accomplish great works by 
force. Only, the war of conquest interests them no 
longer. Instead of thinking of battles, they now think 
of strikes ; instead of setting up as their ideal a battle 
against the armies of Europe, they now set up the general 
strike in which the capitalist regime will be annihilated. ^ 

The theorists of social peace shut their eyes to these 
embarrassing facts ; they are doubtless ashamed to 
admit their cowardice, just as the Government is ashamed 
to admit that its social politics are carried out under the 
threat of disturbances. It is curious that people who 

* Ch. Guieysse, 0^. cit. p. 125. 



boast of having read Le Play have not observed that bis 
conception of the conditions of social peace was quite 
different from that of his imbecile successors. He supposed 
the existence of a middle class of serious moral habits, 
imbued with the feelings of its own dignity, and having 
the energy necessary to govern the country without re- 
course to the old traditional bureaucracy. To those men, 
who held riches and power in their hands, he professed 
to teach their social duty towards their subjects. His 
system supposed an undisputed authority ; it is well 
known that he deplored the licence of the press under 
Napoleon HI. as scandalous and dangerous ; his reflec- 
tions on this subject seem somewhat ludicrous to those 
who compare the newspaper of that time with those of 
to-day. 1 Nobody in his time would have believed that 
a great coimtry would accept peace at any price ; his 
point of view in this matter did not differ greatly from 
that of Clemenceau. He would never have admitted 
that any one could be cowardly and hypocritical enough 
to decorate with the name of social duty the cowardice 
of a middle class incapable of defending itself. 

Middle-class cowardice very much resembles the 
cowardice of the EngUsh Liberal party, which constantly 
proclaims its absolute confidence in arbitration between 
nations : arbitration nearly always gives disastrous results 
for England.^ But these worthy progressives prefer to 

1 Speaking of the elections of 1869, he said that there had been 
" violences of language which France had not till then heard, even in 
the worst days of the Revolution " {Organisation du Travail, 3rd ed. 
p. 340). Evidently, the revolution of 1848 was meant. In 1873 he 
declared that the Emperor could not congratulate himself on having 
abrogated the system of restraint on the press, before having reformed 
the morals of the country {Riforme sociale en France, 5th ed. tome iii. 
P- 356). 

' Sumner Maine observed a long while ago that it was England's 
fate to have advocates who aroused very little sympathy {Le Droit 
international, French translation, p. 279). Many EngUshmen beUeve 
that by humiliating their country they will rouse more sympathy 
towards themselves ; but this supposition is not borne out by the facts. 


pay, or even to compromise the future of their country, 
rather than face the horrors of war. The EngHsh Liberal 
party has the word justice always on its lips, absolutely 
like our middle class ; we might very well wonder whether 
all the high morahty of our great contemporary thinkers 
is not founded on a degradation of the sentiment of 



I. Parliamentarians, who have to inspire fear — Parnell's methods 
— Casuistry ; fundamental identity of the Parliamentary 
Socialist groups. 

II. Degeneration of the middle class brought about by peace — 
Marx's conceptions of necessity — Part played by violence in 
the restoration of former social relationships. 

III. Relation between revolution and economic prosperity — The 
French Revolution — The Christian conquest — Invasion of 
the Barbarians — Dangers which threaten the world. 


It is very difficult to understand proletarian violence as 
long as we think in terms of the ideas disseminated by 
middle-class philosophers ; according to their philosophy, 
violence is a relic of barbarism which is bound to dis- 
appear under the influence of the progress of enlightenment. 
It is therefore quite natural that Jaur^, who has been 
brought up on middle-class ideology, should have a pro- 
found contempt for people who favour proletarian 
violence ; he is astonished to see educated SociaUsts 
hand in hand with the Syndicalists ; he wonders by what 
miracle men who have proved themselves thinkers 
can accumulate sophistries in order to give a semblance 
of reason to the dreams of stupid people who are incapable 



of thought.* This question worries the friends of Jaur^ 
considerably, and they are only too ready to treat the 
representatives of the new school as demagogues, and 
accuse them of seeking the applause of the impulsive 

Parliamentary Socialists cannot understand the ends 
pursued by the new school ; they imagine that ultimately 
all Socialism can be reduced to the pursuit of the means 
of getting into power. Is it possible that they think the 
followers of the new school wish to make a higher bid for 
the confidence of simple electors and cheat the Sociahsts 
of the seats provided for them ? Again, the apologia of 
violence might have the very unfortunate result of dis- 
gusting the workers with electoral politics, and this would 
tend to destroy the chances of the Socialist candidates 
by multiplying the abstentions from voting ! Do you 
wish to revive civil war ? they ask. To our great states- 
men that seems mad. 

Civil war has become very difficult since the discovery 
of the new firearms, and since the cutting of rectilinear 
streets in the capital towns. * The recent troubles in 
Russia seem even to have shown that Governments can 
count much more than was supposed on the energy of 
their officers. Nearly all French politicians had prophesied 
the imminent fall of Czarism at the time of the Manchurian 
defeats, but the Russian army in the presence of rioting 
did not manifest the weakness shown by the French army 
during our revolutions ; nearly everywhere repression 
was rapid, efficacious, and even pitiless. The discussions 

* This is apparently the way in which the proletarian movement 
is spoken of in the fashionable circles of refined Socialism. 

* Cf. the reflections of Engels in the preface to the new edition of 
articles by Marx which he published in 1895 under the title^ Struggles 
of the Classes in France from 1848 to iSjo. This preface is wanting in 
the French translation. In the German edition a passage has been 
left out, the social democratic leaders considering certain phrases of 
Engels not politic enough. 


which took place at the congress of social democrats at 
Jena show that the Parhamentary Sociahsts no longer 
rely upon an armed struggle to obtain possession of the 

Does this mean that they are utterly opposed to 
violence ? It would not be in their interest for the 
people to be quite calm ; a certain amount of agitation 
suits them, but this agitation must be contained within 
well-defined limits and controlled by poUticians. When 
he considers it useful for his own interests, Jaur^ makes 
advances to the Confederation G6n6rale du Travail ; ^ 
sometimes he instructs his peaceable clerks to fill his paper 
with revolutionary phrases ; he is past master in the art 
of utilising popular anger. A cunningly conducted 
agitation is extremely useful to Parhamentary SociaUsts, 
who boast before the Government and the rich middle 
class of their abiUty to moderate revolution ; they can 
thus arrange the success of the financial affairs in which 
they are interested, obtain minor favoiurs for many 
influential electors, and get social laws voted in order to 
appear important in the eyes of the blockheads who 
imagine that these Sociahsts are great reformers of the 
law. In order that all this may come off there must 
always be a certain amount of movement, and the middle 
class must always be kept in a state of fear. 

It is conceivable that a regular system of diplomacy 
might be established between the Socialist party and the 
State each time an economic conflict arose between 
workers and employers ; the two powers would settle the 
particular difference. In Germany the Government 
enters into negotiations with the Church each time the 
clericals stand in the way of the administration. Sociahsts 
have even been urged to imitate Pamell, who so often 

1 According to the necessities of the moment he is for or against 
the general strike. According to some he voted for the general strike 
at the International Congress of 1900 ; according to others he abstained. 


found a means of imposing his will on England. This 
resemblance is all the greater in that Pamell's authority 
did not rest only on the number of votes at his disposal, 
but mainly upon the terror which every EngUshman felt 
at the bare announcement of agrarian troubles in Ireland. 
A few acts of violence controlled by a. ParUamentary 
group were exceedingly useful to the PameUian policy, 
just as they are useful to the policy of Jaur^. In both 
cases a Parliamentary group seUs peace of mind to the 
Conservatives, who dare not use the force they conmiand. 

This kind of diplomacy is difficult to conduct, and 
the Irish after the death of Pamell do not seem to have 
succeeded in carrying it on with the same success as in 
his time. In France it presents particular difficulty, 
because in no other country perhaps are the workers 
more difficult to manage : it is easy enough to arouse 
popular anger, but it is not easy to stifle it. As long as 
there are no very rich and strongly centralised trade 
imions whose leaders are in continuous relationship with 
poUtical men,i so long will it be impossible to say exactly 
to what lengths violence will go. Jaures would very 
much like to see such associations of workers in existence, 
for his prestige will disappear at once when the general 
pubUc perceives that he is not in a position to moderate 

Everything becomes a question of valuation, accurate 
estimation, and opportunism ; much skill, tact, and calm 
audacity are necessary to carry on such a diplomacy, i.e. 
to make the workers believe that you are carrying the 
flag of revolution, the middle class that you are arresting 
the danger which threatens them, and the country that 

1 Gambetta complained because the French clergy was " acephal- 
ous " ; he would have liked a select body to have been formed in its 
midst, with which the Government could discuss matters (Garilhe, 
Le clergS sSculier franfais au XIX' sUcle, pp. 88-89) • Sjmdicalism has 
no head with which it would be possible to carry on diplomatic relations 


\ you represent an irresistible current of opinion. The 
great mass of the electors understands nothing of what 
passes in politics, and has no intelligent knowledge of 
economic history ; they take sides with the party which 
seems to possess power, and you can obtain everything 
you wish from them when you can prove to them that 
you are strong enough to make the Government capitulate. 
But you must not go too far, because the middle class 
might wake up and the country might be given over 
to a resolutely conservative statesman. A proletarian 
violence which escapes all valuation, all measurement, 
and all opportunism, may jeopardise everything and ruin 
socialistic diplomacy. 

This diplomacy is played both on a large and smaU 
scale ; with the Government, with the heads of the groups 
in Parliament, and with influential electors. Politicians 
seek to draw the greatest possible advantage from the 
discordant forces existing in the political field. 

ParUamentary Socialists feel a certain embarrassment 
from the fact that at its origin Sociahsm took its stand 
on absolute principles and appealed for a long time to 
the same sentiments of revolt as the most advanced 
Republican Party. These two circumstances prevent 
them from following a party policy like that which 
Charles Bonnier often recommended : this writer, who 
has long been the principal theorist of the Guesdist party, 
would Uke the Socialists to follow closely the example of 
Parnell, who used to negotiate with the English parties 
without allowing himself to become the vassal of any one 
of them ; in the same way it might be possible to come 
to an agreement with the Conservatives, if the latter 
pledged themselves to grant better conditions to the 
proletariat than the Radicals (Soaa/is/^, August 27,1905). 
This policy seemed scandalous to many people. Bonnier 
was obhged to dilute his thesis. He then contented 
himself with asking that the party should act in the best 


interests of the proletariat (September 17, 1905) ; but 
how is it possible to know where these interests he when 
the principle of the class war is no longer taken as your 
unique and absolute rule ? 

Parliamentary Socialists beHeve that they possess 
special faculties which enable them to take into accoimt, 
not only the material and immediate advantages reaped 
by the working classes, but also the moral reasons which 
compel Socialism to form part of the great Republican 
family. Their congresses spend their energies in putting 
together formulas designed to regulate Socialist diplomacy, 
in settling what alliances are permitted and what for- 
bidden, in reconciling the abstract principle of the class 
war (which they are anxious to retain verbally) with the 
reahty of the agreements with politicians. Such an 
undertaking is madness, and therefore leads to equivoca- 
tions, when it does not force deputies into attitudes of 
deplorable hypocrisy. Each year problems have to be 
rediscussed, because all diplomacy requires a flexibility 
which is incompatible with the existence of perfectly 
clear statutes. 

The casuistry which Pascal scoffed at so much was 
not more subtle and more absurd than that which is to 
be found in polemics between what are called the Socialist 
schools. Escobar would have some difficulty in finding 
his bearings amid the distinctions of Jaur^s ; the moral 
theology of responsible SociaUsts is not one of the least of 
the buffooneries of our time. 

All moral theology can be split up into two tendencies : 
there are casuists who say that we must be content with 
opinions having a slight probabiUty, others that we should 
always adopt those that are strictest and most certain. 
This distinction was bound to be met with among our 
Parliamentary Socialists. Jaur^s prefers the soft and 
conciliatory method, provided that means are found to 
make it agree, somehow or other, with first principles. 


and that it has behind it a few respectable authorities ; 
he is a prohahilist in the strongest sense of the term — or 
even a latitudinarian (laxist).^ Vaillant recommends 
the strong and belligerent method, which alone, in his 
opinion, is in accordance with the class war, and which 
has in its favom- the mianimons sanction of all the old 
authorities ; he is a tutiorist and a kind of Jansenist. 

Jaur^ no doubt believes that he is acting for the 
greatest good of Socialism, just as the more easy going 
type of casuists believed themselves the best and most 
useful defenders of the Church ; they did, as a matter of 
fact, prevent weak Christians from faUing into irreligion, 
and led them to practise the sacraments — exactly as 
Jaur^s prevents the rich intellectuals who have come to 
Socialism by way of Dreyfusism from drawing back in 
horror before the class war, and induces them to take up 
the shares of the party journals. In his eyes, Vaillant 
is a dreamer who does not see the reality of the world, 
who intoxicates himself with the chimeras of an insurrec- 
tion which has now become impossible, and who does 
not understand the great advantages which may be got 
from universal suffrage by a boastful politician. 

Between these two methods there is only a difference 
of degree, and not one of kind as is believed by those 
Parliamentary Socialists who call themselves revolutionary. 
On this point Jaur^s has a great intellectual superiority 
over his adversaries, for he has never cast any doubt upon 
the fundamental identity of the two methods. 

Both of these methods suppose an entirely dislocated 
middle -class society — rich classes who have lost all 
sentiment of their class interest, men ready to follow 
blindly the lead of people who have taken up the business 

1 [The writers on moral theology who maintain that our actions 
should be guided only by absolutely sure maxims were called tutiorists ; 
opposed to them were the laxists. In the Provinciales Pascal 
defends the tutiorist position, the Jesuits he attacks are laxists. — Trans. 


of directing public opinion. The Dreyfus affair showed 
that the enHghtened middle class was in a strange mental 
state ; people who had long and loudly served the Con- 
servative party co-operated with anarchists, took part 
in violent attacks on the army, or even definitely enrolled 
themselves in the SociaHst party ; on the other hand, 
newspapers, which make it their business to defend 
traditional institutions, dragged the magistrates of the 
Court of CassaH:ion in the mire. This strange episode 
in our contemporary history brought to light the state of 
dislocation of the classes. 

Jaurte, who w£ls very much mixed up in all the ups 
and downs of Dreyf usism, had rapidly judged the mentaUty 
of the upper middle class, into which he had not yet 
penetrated. He saw that this upper middle class was 
terribly ignorant, gapingly stupid, politically absolutely 
impotent ; he recognised that with people who understand 
nothing of the principles of capitalist economics it is 
easy to contrive a policy of compromise on the basis of 
an extremely broad SociaUsm ; he calculated the pro- 
portions in which it is necessary to mix together flattery 
of the superior inteUigence of the imbeciles whose seduc- 
tion was aimed at, appeals to the disinterested sentiments 
of speculators who pride themselves on having invented 
the ideal, and threats of revolution in order to obtain the 
leadership of people void of ideas. Experience has shown 
that he had a very remarkable intuition of the forces 
which exist at this present moment in the middle-class 
world. Vaillant, on the contrary, is very Uttle acquainted 
with this world ; he beheves that the only weapon that 
can be employed to move the middle class is fear; 
doubtless fear is an excellent weapon, but it might provoke 
obstinate resistance if you went beyond a certain Hmit. 
Vaillant does not possess those remarkable qualities of 
suppleness of mind, and perhaps even of peasant dupHcity, 
which shine in Jaurds, and which have often caused 


people to say that he would have made a wonderful cattle- 

The more closely the history of these last years is 
examined, the more the discussions concerning the two 
methods will be recognised as puerile : the partisans of 
the two methods are equally opposed to proletarian 
violence, because it escapes from the control of the people 
engaged in Pariiamentary politics. Revolutionary Syndi- 
calism cannot be controlled by the so-called revolutionary 
SociaHsts of Parliament. 


The two methods favoured by official Socialism pre- 
suppose this same historical datum. The ideology of a 
timorous himianitarian middle class professing to have 
freed its thought from the conditions of its existence is 
grafted on the degeneration of the capitalist system ; 
and the race of bold captains who made the greatness of 
modern industry disappears to make way for an ultra- 
civihsed aristocracy which asks to be allowed to live in 
peace. This degeneration fills our Parliamentary Socialists 
with joy. Their role would vanish if they were con- 
fronted with a middle class which was energetically 
engaged on the paths of capitalistic progress, a class that 
would look upon timidity with shame, and which would 
find satisfaction in looking after its class interests. In 
the presence of a middle class which has become almost 
as stupid as the nobility of the eighteenth century, their 
power is enormous. If the stultifying of the upper middle 
class progresses in a regular manner at the pace it has 
taken for the last few years, our official Socialists may 
reasonably hope to reach the goal of their dreams and 
sleep in sumptuous mansions. 

Two accidents alone, it seems, would be able to stop 
this movement : a great foreign war, which might renew 


lost energies, and which in any case would doubtless 
bring into power men with the will to govern ; ^ or a great 
extension of proletarian violence, which would make the 
revolutionary reality evident to the middle class, and 
would disgust them with the humanitarian platitudes with 
which Jaur^s lulls them to sleep. It is in view of these two 
great dangers that the latter displays all his resources as 
a popular orator. European peace must be maintained 
at all costs ; some limit must be put to proletarian 

Jaur^s is persuaded that France will be perfectly happy 
on the day on which the editors of his paper, and its share- 
holders, can draw freely on the coffers of the public 
Treasury ; it is an illustration of the celebrated proverb : 
'* Quand Auguste avait bu, la Pologne ^tait ivre." A 
socialist government of this kind would without doubt ruin 
any country, if it was administered with the same care for 
financial order as VKumanite has been administered ; 
but what does the future of the country matter, provided 
that the new regime gives a good time to a few professors, 
who imagine that they have invented Socialism, and to a 
few Dreyfusard financiers ? 

Before the working class also could accept this dictator- 
ship of incapacity, it must itself become as stupid as the 
middle class, and must lose all revolutionary energy, at 
the same time that its masters will have lost all capitalistic 
energy. Such a future is not impossible ; and a great 
deal of hard work is being done to stupefy the worker for 
this purpose. The Direction du Travail and the Musee 
Social are doing their best to carry on this marvellous 
work of idealistic education, which is decorated with the 
most pompous names, and which is represented as a means 
of civilising the proletariat. Our professional ideaUsts 
are very much disturbed by the SyndicaUsts, and experience 

' Cf. G. Sorel, Insegnamenti sociali, p. 38S. The hypothesis of a 
great European war seems very far fetched at the moment. 


shows that a strike is sometimes sufficient to ruin all 
the work of education which these manufacturers of social 
peace have patiently built by years of labour. 

In order to understand thoroughly the consequences 
of the very singular regime in the midst of which we are 
living, we must hark back to Marx's conceptions of the 
passage from capitaUsm to Socialism. These conceptions 
are well known, yet we must continually return to them, 
because they are often forgotten, or at least undervalued 
by official Socialist writers ; it is necessary to insist on 
them strongly each time that we have to argue about the 
anti-Marxist transformation which contemporary Social- 
ism is undergoing. 

According to Marx, capitaHsm, by reason of the innate 
laws of its own nature, is hunying along a path which 
will lead the world of to-day, with the inevitability of the 
evolution of organic Ufe, to the doors of the world of to- 
morrow. This movement comprises a long period of 
capitalistic construction, and it ends by a rapid destruction, 
which is the work of the proletariat. CapitaUsm creates 
the heritage which Socialism will receive, the men who 
will suppress the present regime, and the means of bringing 
about this destruction, at the same time that it preserves 
the results obtained in production.^ Capitalism begets 
new ways of working ; it throws the working class into 
revolutionary organisations by the pressure it exercises 
on wages ; it restricts its own political basis by competi- 
tion, which is constantly eliminating industrial leaders. 
Thus, after having solved the great problem of the 
organisation of labour, to effect which Utopians have 
brought forward so many naive or stupid hypotheses, 
capitaHsm provokes the birth of the cause which will 

1 This notion of revolutionary preservation is very important; I 
have pointed out something analogous in the passage from Judaism 
to Christianity (Le Systime historique de Renan, pp. 72-73, 1 71-172, 


overthrow it, and thus renders useless everything that 
Utopians have written to induce enlightened people to 
make reforms; and it gradually ruins the traditional 
order, against which the critics of the idealists had proved 
themselves to be so deplorably incompetent. It might 
therefore be said that capitaUsm plays a part analogous 
to that attributed by Hartmann to The Unconscious in 
nature, since it prepares the coming of social reforms 
which it did not intend to produce. Without any co- 
ordinated plan, without any directive ideas, without any 
ideal of a future world, it is the cause of an inevitable 
evolution ; it draws from the present all that the present 
can give towards historical development ; it performs 
in an almost mechanical manner all that is necessary, in 
order that a new era may appear, and that this new era 
may break every hnk with the ideaUsm of the present 
times, while preserving the acquisitions of the capitaUstic 
economic system.^ 

SociaUsts should therefore abandon the attempt 
(initiated by the Utopians) to find a means of inducing the 
enlightened middle class to prepare the transition to a more 
perfect system of legislation ; their sole function is that of 
explaining to the proletariat the greatness of the revolu- 
tionary part they are called upon to play. By ceaseless 
criticism the proletariat must be brought to perfect their 
organisations ; they must be shown how the embryonic 
forms which appear in their unions ^ may be developed, so 
that, finally, they may build up institutions without any 
parallel in the history of the middle class ; that they may 
form ideas which depend solely on their position as pro- 
ducers in large industries, and which owe nothing to middle- 
class thought; and that they may acquire habits of 

* Cf . what I have said on the transformation; which Marx wrought 
in Socialism, Insegnamenti sociali, pp. 179-186. 

* [The French is socUUs de rSsistance. What is meant is the syndi- 
cate, considered principally as a means of combining workmen against 
the employers. — Trans. Note,] 


liberty with which the middle class nowadays are no 
longer acquainted. 

This doctrine will evidently be inapplicable if the 
middle class and the proletariat do not oppose each other 
implacably, with all the forces at their disposal ; the more 
ardently capitalist the middle class is, the more the 
proletariat is full of a warlike spirit and confident of its 
revolutionary strength, the more certain will be the 
success of the proletarian movement. 

The middle class with which Marx was familiar in 
England was still, as regards the immense majority, 
animated by their conquering, insatiable, and pitiless 
spirit, which had characterised at the beginning of modem 
times the creators of new industries and the adventurers 
laimched on the discovery of unknown lands. When 
we are studying the modem industrial system we should 
always bear in mind this similarity between the capitalist 
type and the warrior type ; it was for very good reasons 
that the men who directed gigantic enterprises were 
named captains of industry. This type is still foimd to- 
day in all its purity in the United States : there are found 
the indomitable energy, the audacity based on a just 
appreciation of its strength, the cold calculation of 
interests, which are the qualities of great generals and 
great capitalists.^ According to Paul de Rousiers, every 
American feels himself capable of " trying his luck ** on 
the battlefield of business,' so that the general spirit of 
the country is in complete harmony with that of the 
multi-millionaires ; our men of letters are exceedingly 
surprised to see these latter condemning themselves to 
lead to the end of their days a galley-slave existence, 

1 I will come back to this resemblance in Chapter VII. iii. 

* P. de Rousiers, La Vie ameticaine, I' Education et la sociSU, p. 19. 
" Fathers give very little advice to their children, and let them learn 
for themselves, as they say over there " (p. 14). " Not only does (the 
American) wish to be independent, but he wishes to be powerful " 
{La V ie atnSricaine : ranches, fermes et usines, p. 6). 


without ever thinking of leading a nobleman's life for 
themselves, as the Rothschilds do. 

In a society so enfevered by the passion for the success 
which can be obtained in competition, all the actors walk 
straight before them like veritable automata, without 
taking any notice of the great ideas of the sociologists ; 
they are subject to very simple forces, and not one of 
them dreams of escaping from the circumstances of his 
condition. Then only is the development of capitalism 
carried on with that inevitableness which struck Marx 
so much, and which seemed to him comparable to that 
of a natural law. If, on the contrary, the middle class, 
led astray by the chatter of the preachers of ethics and 
sociology, return to an ideal of conservative mediocrity, 
seek to correct the abuses of economics, and wish to break 
with the barbarism of their predecessors, then one part 
of the forces which were to further the development of 
capitalism is employed in hindering it, an arbitrary and 
irrational element is introduced, and the future of the 
world becomes completely indeterminate. 

This indetermination grows still greater if the pro- 
letariat are converted to the ideas of social peace at the 
same time as their masters, or even if they simply 
consider everything from the corporative point of view ; 
while Socialism gives to every economic contest a general 
and revolutionary colour. 

Conservatives are not deceived when they see in the 
compromises which lead to collective contracts, and in 
corporative particularism,^ the means of avoiding the 
Marxian revolution ; ^ but they escape one danger only to 

1 [This refers to the conduct of former syndicates which limited 
their ambitions to the interests of their own handicraft without con- 
cerning themselves with the general interests of the working classes. — 
Trans. Note.] 

2 There is constant talk nowadays of organising labour, i.e. of utilising 
the corporative spirit by giving it over to the management of well- 
intentioned, very serious and responsible people, and liberating the 



fall into another, and they run the risk of being devoured 
by Pariiamentary Socialism.* Jaur^s is as enthusiastic as 
the clericals about measures which turn away the working 
classes from the idea of the Marxian revolution ; I believe 
he understands better than they do what the result of 
social peace will be ; he founds his own hopes on the simul- 
taneous ruin of the capitalistic and the revolutionary spirit. 
It is often urged, in objection to the people who defend 
the Marxian conception, that it is impossible for them to 
stop the movement of degeneration which is dragging 
both the middle class and the proletariat far from the 
paths assigned to them by Marx's theory. They can 
doubtless influence the working classes, and it is hardly 
to be denied that strike violences do keep the revolutionary 
spirit alive ; but how can they hope to give back to the 
middle class an ardour which is spent ? 

It is here that the role of violence in history appears 
to us as singularly great, for it can, in an indirect manner, 
so operate on the middle class as to awaken them to a 
sense of their own class sentiment. Attention has often 
been drawn to the danger of certain acts of violence which 
compromised admirable social works, disgusted employers 
who were disposed to arrange the happiness of their work- 
men, and developed egoism where the most noble senti- 
ments formerly reigned. 
I To repay with black ingratitude the benevolence of those 
I who would protect the workers ,2 to meet with insults the 
■ homilies of the defenders of human fraternity, and to 

workers from the yoke of sophists. The responsible people are de Mun, 
Charles Benoist (the amusing specialist in constitutional law), Arthur 
Fontaine, and the band of democratic abbSs, . . . and lastly Gabriel 
Hanotaux ! 

1 Vilredo Pareto laughs at the simple middle class who are happy, 
because they are no longer threatened by intractable Marxians, and 
who have fallen into the sn^ire of the conciliatory Marxians {Systimes 
socialistes, tome ii. p. 453). 

* Cf. G. Sorel, Insegnamenti sociali, p. 53. 


reply by blows to the advances of the propagators of 
social peace — all that is assuredly not in conformity with 
the rules of the fashionable Socialism of M. and Mme. 
Georges Renard,^ but it is a very practical way of indicat- 
ing to the middle class that they must mind their own 
business and only that. 

I believe also that it may be usefvil to thrash the 
orators of democracy and the representatives of the 
Government, for in this way you insure that none shall 
retain any illusions about the character of acts of violence. 
But these acts can have historical value only if they are 
the clear and brutal expression of the class war : the middle 
classes must not be allowed to imagine that, aided 
by cleverness, social science, or high-flown sentiments, 
they might find a better welcome at the hands of the 

The day on which employers perceive that they have 
nothing to gain by works which promote social peace, or 
by democracy, they will understand that they have been 
ill-advised by the people who persuaded them to abandon 
their trade of creators of productive forces for the noble 
profession of educators of the proletariat. Then there 
is some chance that they may get back a part of their 
energy, and that moderate or conservative economics may 
appear as absurd to them as they appeared to Marx. In 
any case, the separation of classes being more clearly 
accentuated, the proletarian movement will have some 
chance of developing with greater regularity than to-day. 

The two antagonistic classes therefore influence each 
other in a partly indirect but decisive manner. Capital- 
ism drives the proletariat into revolt, because in daily 

1 Mme. G. Renard has published in the Suisse of July 26, 1900, an 
article full of lofty psychological considerations about the workers' 
fete given by Millerand (Leon de Seilhac, Le Monde socialiste, pp. 307- 
309). Her husband has solved the grave question as to who will drink 
Clos-Vougeot in the society of the future (G. Renard, Le Regime socialiste, 
p. 175). 


life the employers use their force in a direction opposed 
to the desire of their workers ; but the future of the prole- 
tariat is not entirely dependent on this revolt ; the work- 
ing classes are organised under the influence of other 
causes, and Socialism, inculcating in them the revolu- 
tionary idea, prepares them to suppress the hostile class. 
Capitalist force is at the base of all this process, and its 
action is automatic and inevitable.^ Marx supposed that 
the middle class had no need to be incited to employ 
force, but we are to-day faced with a new and very im- 
foreseen fact — a middle class which seeks to weaken its 
own strength. Must we believe that the Marxian con- 
ception is dead ? By no means, for proletarian violence 
comes upon the scene just at the moment when the 
conception of social peace is being held up as a 
means of moderating disputes ; proletarian violence 
confines employers to their role of producers, and tends 
to restore the separation of the classes, just when they 
seemed on the point of intermingling in the democratic 

Proletarian violence not only makes the future r^ivolu- 

t \ tion certain, but it seems also to be the only means by 

\ which the European nations — at present stupefied by 

^ hmnanitarianism — can recover their former energy. This 

kind of violence compels capitalism to restrict its attentions 

solely to its material role and tends to restore to it the 

warlike qualities which it formerly possessed. A growing 

^ In an article written in September 1851 (the first of the series 
pubhshed under the title: Revolution and Cotinter-revohition) , Marx 
established the following parallelism between the development of the 
middle class and of the proletariat : To a numerous, rich, concentrated, 
and powerful middle class corresponds a numerous, strong, concen- 
trated and intelligent proletariat. Thus he seems to have thought 
that the intelligence of the proletariat depends on the historical con- 
ditions which secured power in society to the middle classes. He says, 
again, that the true characters of the class war only exist in countries 
where the middle class has recast the Government in conformity' with 
its needs. 


and solidly organised working class can compel the 
capitalist class to remain firm in the industrial war ; if a 
united and revolutionary proletariat confronts a rich 
middle class, eager for conquest, capitalist society will ( \ 
have reached its historical perfection. \ * 

Thus proletarian violence has become an essential 
factor of Marxism. Let us add once more that, if 
properly conducted, it will suppress the Parliamentary 
SociaUsts, who will no longer be able to pose as the leaders 
of the working classes and the guardians of order. 


The Marxian theory of revolution supposes that 
capitalism, while it is still in full swing, will be struck 
to the heart, when — having attained complete industrial 
efficiency — it has finally achieved its historical mission, 
and whilst the economic system is still a progressive one. 
Marx does not seem to have asked himself what would 
happen if the economic system were on the down grade ; 
he never dreamt of the possibihty of a revolution which 
would take a return to the past, or even social conserva- 
tion, as its ideal. 

We see nowadays that such a revolution might easily 
come to pass : the friends of Jaures, the clericals, and 
the democrats all take the Middle Ages as their ideal for 
the future ; they would like competition to be tempered, 
riches Umited, production subordinated to needs. These 
are dreams which Marx looked upon as reactionary,^ and 
consequently negUgible, because it seemed to him that 

* " Those who, like Sismondi, would return to the just proportion 
of production, while preserving the existing bases of society, are re- 
actionary, since, to be consistent, they should also desire to re-establish 
all the other conditions of past times. ... In existing society, in the 
industry based on individual exchanges, the anarchy of production, 
which is the source of so muck poverty is at the same time the source of 
all progress " (Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Eng. trans., p. 41)- 


capitalism was embarked on an irresistible progress ; but 
nowadays we see considerable forces grouped together 
in the endeavour to reform the capitalist economic system 
by bringing it, with the aid of laws, nearer to the medieval 
ideal. Parliamentary Socialism would hke to combine 
with the moralists, the Church, and the democracy, with 
the common aim of impeding the capitaHst movement ; 
and, in view of middle-class cowardice, that would not 
perhaps be impossible. 

Marx compared the passage from one historical era to 
another to a civil inheritance ; the new age inherits 
prior acquisitions. If the revolution took place during 
a period of economic decadence, would not the inheritance 
be very much compromised, and in that case could there 
be any hope of the speedy reappearance of progress in 
the economic system ? The ideologists hardly trouble 
themselves at all with this question ; they affirm that 
I ^ the decadence will stop on the day that the public Treasury 
is at their disposal ; they are dazzled by the immense 
reserve of riches which would be delivered up to their 
pillage ; what banquets there would be, what women, 
and what opportunities for self-display ! We, on the 
other hand, who have no such prospect before our eyes, 
have to ask whether history can furnish us with any 
guidance on this subject, which will enable us to guess 
what would be the result of a revolution accompUshed 
in times of decadence. 

The researches of Tocqueville enable us to study the 
French Revolution from this point of view. He very 
much astonished his contemporaries when, a half -century 
ago, he showed them that the Revolution had been much 
more conservative than had been supposed till then. 
He pointed out that most of the characteristic institutions 
of modem France date from the Old Regime (centralisa- 
tion, the issue of regulations on every possible pretext, 


administrative tutelage of the communes, exemption of 
civil servants from the jurisdiction of the courts) ; he 
found only one important innovation — the coexistence, 
which was established in the year VI 1 1., of isolated civil 
servants and deliberative .councils. The principles of 
the Old Regime reappeared in i8oq, and the old customs 
were received back into favour. ^ Turgot seemed to him 
to be an excellent type of the Napoleonic administrator, 
who had " the ideal of a civil servant, in a democratic 
society subject to an absolute government." ^ He was 
of the opinion that the partition of the land, which it is 
customary to place to the credit of the Revolution, had 
begun long before, and had not gone on at an exceptionally 
rapid pace under its influence.^ 

It is certain that Napoleon did not have to make any 
extraordinary effort to put the country once more on a 
monarchical footing. He found France quite ready, and 
had only a few corrections of detail to make in order to 
profit by the experience acquired since 1789. The 
administrative and fiscal laws had been drawn up during 
the Revolution by people who had applied the methods 
of the Old Regime ; they remain in force to-day, still 
almost intact. The men he employed had served their 
apprenticeship under the Old Regime and under the 
Revolution ; they all resemble one another ; in their 
governmental practices they are all men of the preceding 
period ; they all work with an equal ardour for the great- 
ness of His Majesty.* The real merit of Napoleon lay 
in his not trusting too much to his own genius, in not 
giving himself up to the dreams which had so often 
deluded men of the eighteenth century, and had led them 

* Tocqueville, L'Ancien Rigime et la Rivolution (idition des ceuvres 
computes), livre ii. chapitres i., iii., iv. pp. 89, 91, 94, 288. 

* Tocqueville, Milanges. pp. 155-156. 

* Tocqueville, L'Ancien Rigime et la Rivolution, pp. 35-37. 

* L. Madelin also comes to this conclusion in an article in the Dibats 
of July 6, 1907, on the prefects of Napoleon I. 


to desire to regenerate ever5rthing from top to bottom — 
in short, in his full recognition of the principle of historical 
heredity. It follows from all this that the Napoleonic 
regime may be looked upon as an experiment, showing 
clearly the enormous part played by conservation through- 
out the greatest revolutions. 

Indeed, I think that the principle of conservation 
might even be extended to things military, and the armies 
of the Revolution and the Empire may be shown to be 
an extension of former institutions. In any case, it is 
very curious that Napoleon should have made no essential 
innovations in military equipment, and that it should 
have been the fire-arms of the Old Regime which so 
greatly contributed to securing the victories of the revolu- 
tionary troops. It was only imder the Restoration that 
the artillery was improved. 

The ease >\dth which the Revolution and the Empire 
succeeded in radically transforming the country while 
still retaining such a large number of the acquisitions of 
the past, is bound up with a fact to which our historians 
have not always called attention, and which Taine does 
not seem to have noticed : industrial production was 
making great progress, and this progress was such that, 
towards 1780, everybody beUeved in the dogma of the 
indefinite progress of mankind.^ This dogma, which was 
to exercise so great an influence on modem thought, 
would be a bizarre and inexplicable paradox if it were not 
considered as bound up with economic progress and with 
the feeling of absolute confidence which this economic 
progress engendered. The wars of the Revolution and 
of the Empire only stimulated this feeling still further, 
not only because they were glorious, but also because 
they caused a great deal of money to enter the country, 

* Tocqueville, L'Ancien Regime et la Rivolution, pp. 254-262, and 
Melanges, p. 62. Cf. chapter IV. iv. of my study on Les Illusions du 


and thus contributed to the development of pro- 
duction. * 

The triumph of the Revolution astonished neariy all 
its contemporaries, and it seems that the most intelligent, 
the most deliberate, and the best informed as regards 
political matters, were the most surprised ; this was 
because reasons drawn from theory could not explain 
this paradoxical success. It seems to me that even to- 
day the question is scarcely less obscure to historians than 
it was to our ancestors. The primary cause of this 
triumph must be sought in the economic progress of the 
time ; it is because the Old Regime was struck by rapid 
blows, while production was making great strides, that 
the contemporary world was born with comparatively 
little labour, and could so rapidly be assured of a vigorous 

We possess, on the other hand,, a dreadful historical 
experience of a great transformation taking place at a 
time of economic decadence ; I mean the victory of 
Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire which 
closely followed it. 

All the old Christian authors agree in informing us 
that the new religion brought no serious improvement 
in the situation of the world ; corruption, oppression, 
and disasters continued to crush the people as in the past. 
This was a great disillusion for the fathers of the Church ; 
at the time of the persecutions the Christians had believed 
that God would overwhelm Rome with favours on the 
day that the Empire ceased to persecute the faithful ; 
now the Empire was Christian, and the bishops had 
become personages of the first rank, yet everything 
continued to go on as badly as in the past. What 
was still more disheartening, the immoraUty, so often 


^ Kautsky has dwelt very strongly on the role played by the treasures 
which the French armies took possession of {La Lutte des classes en 
France en ijSg, French trans., pp. 104-106). 


denounced as the result of idolatry, had spread to the 
adorers of Christ. Far from imposing a far-reaching 
reform on the profane world, the Church itself had become 
corrupted by imitating the profane world ; it began to 
resemble an imperial administration, and the factions 
which tore it asunder were much more moved by an 
appetite for power than by religious reasons. 

It has often been asked whether Christianity was not 
the cause, or at least one of the principal causes, of the 
fall of Rome. Gaston Boissier combats this opinion by 
endeavouring to show that the decadent movement 
observed after Constantine is the continuation of a move- 
ment which had existed for some time, and that it is not 
possible to see whether Christianity accelerated or retarded 
the death of the ancient world. ^ That amounts to sa5ring 
that the extent of the conservation was enormous ; we 
can, by analogy, imagine what would follow from a 
revolution which brought our official Socialists of to-day 
into power. Institutions remaining almost what they are 
to-day, all the middle-class ideology would be preserved ; 
the middle-class state would dominate with its ancient 
abuses ; if economic decadence had begim, it would be 

Shortly after the Christian conquest, the barbarian in- 
vasions began. More than one Christian wondered whether 
an order in conformity with the principles of the new 
rehgion was not at length to appear ; this hope was all 
the more reasonable as the bairbarians had been converted 
on coming into the Empire, and because they were not 
accustomed to the corruption of Roman life. From 
the economic point of view, a regeneration might be hoped 
for, since the world was perishing beneath the weight of 
urban exploitation ; the new masters, who had coarse 
rural manners, would not live as great lords, but as heads 
of large demesnes ; perhaps, therefore, the earth would 

1 Gaston Boissier, La Fin du paganisme, livre iv. chap. iii. 


be better cultivated. The illusions of Christian authors 
contemporary with the invasions may be compared to 
those of the numerous Utopians who hope to see the 
modem world regenerated by the virtues which they 
attribute to the man of average condition ; the re- 
placing of the very rich classes by new socisd strata 
should bring about morality, happiness, and \miversal 

The barbarians did not establish any progressive state 
of society ; there were not many of them, and almost 
everywhere they simply took the place of the old lords, 
led the same Hfe as they did, and were devoured by urban 
civihsation. In France, the Merovingian royalty has 
been made the subject of particularly thorough investiga- 
tion ; Fustel de Coulanges has* used all his erudition in 
throwing Ught on the conservative character which it 
assumed ; its conservatism appeared to him to be so 
strong that he was even able to say that there had been 
no real revolution, and he represented the whole of the 
history of the late Middle Ages as a movement which had 
carried on the movement of the Roman Empire with a 
little acceleration. 1 *' The Merovingian Government," 
he said, " is more than three parts the continuation 
of that which the Roman Empire had given to 
Gaul." 2 

The economic decadence was accentuated under these 
barbarian kings ; no renascence could take place until 
very long afterwards, when the world had gone through 
a long series of trials. At least four centuries of barbarism 
had to be gone through before a progressive movement 
showed itself ; society was compelled to descend to a 
state not far removed from its origins, and Vico was to 
find in this phenomenon an illustration of his doctrine of 

* Fustel de Coulanges, Origines du figime fiodal, pp. 566-567. I do 
not deny that there is a good deal of exaggeration in the thesis of 
Fustel de Coulanges, but the conservation was undeniable. 

* Fustel de Coulanges, La Monarchic franque, p. 650. 


ricoYsiy Thus a revolution which took place in a time 
of economic decadence had forced the world to pass again 
through a period of almost primitive civilisation, and had 
stopped all progress for several centuries. 

These dreadful events have been many times invoked 
by the adversaries of Socialism ; I do not deny the validity 
of the argument, but two details must be added which 
may perhaps appear of small importance to professional 
sociologists. Such events presuppose (i) an economic 
decadence ; (2) an organisation which assures a very 
perfect conservation of the current system of ideas. The 
civilized Socialism of our professors has many times been 
presented as a safeguard of civilisation: I believe that 
it would produce the same effect as was produced by the 
classical education given by the Church to the barbarian 
kings. The proletariat would be corrupted and stultified 
as the Merovingians were, and economic decadence would 
only be more certain under the action of these pretended 
civilising agents. 

The dangers which threaten the future of the world 
may be avoided, if the proletariat hold on with obstinacy 
to revolutionary ideas, so as to realise as much as possible 
Marx's conception. Everything may be saved, if the 
proletariat, by their use of violence, manage to re-estabhsh 
the division into classes, and so restore to the middle 
class something of its former energy ; that is the great 
aim towards which the whole thought of men — who are 
not h5^notised by the event of the day, but who think 

* [Vice's doctrine of " reflux " {ricorsi). Civilisation comes to an end 
in the " barbarism of reflection " which is worse than the primitive 
barbarism of sensation. . . . The mind, after traversing its course 
of progress, after rising from sensation ... to the rational, from 
violence to equity, is bound, in conformity with its eternal nature, 
to retraverse the course, to relapse into violence and sensation, and 
thence to renew its upward movement, " to commence a reflux." See 
chap. xi. of The Philosophy of Giambattista Vico, by Benedetto Croce- 
Eng. trans. — Trans. Note.] 


of the conditions of to-morrow — must be directed. 
Proletarian violence, carried on as a pure and simple 
manifestation of the sentiment of the class war, appears 
thus as a very fine and very heroic thing ; it is at the 
service of the immemorial interests of civilisation ; it is 
not perhaps the most appropriate method of obtaining 
immediate material advantages, but it may save the world | 
from barbarism. 

We have a very effective reply to those who accuse 
Syndicalists of being obtuse and ignorant people. We 
may ask them to consider the economic decadence for 
which they are working. Let us salute the revolutionaries 
as the Greeks saluted the Spartan heroes who defended 
Thermopylae and helped to preserve the civilisation of 
the ancient world. 



I. Old ideas relative to the Revolution — Change resulting from 
the year of 1870 and from the Parliamentary regime. 

II. Drumont's observations on middle-class ferocity — The judicial 
Third Estate and the history of the Law Courts — Capitalism 
against the cult of the State. 

III. Attitude of the Dreyfusards — faurts's judgments on the 
Revolution : his adoration of success and his hatred for the 

IV. Antimilitarism as a proof of an abandonment of middle-class 

The ideas current among the outside public on the subject 
of proletarian violence are not founded on observation 
of contemporary facts, and on a rational interpretation 
of the present Syndicalist movement ; they are derived 
from a comparison of the present with the past — an in- 
finitely simpler mental process ; they are shaped by the 
memories which the word revolution evokes almost 
automatically. It is supposed that the Syndicalists, 
merely because they call themselves revolutionaries, 
wish to reproduce the history of the revolutionaries of 
'93. The Blanquists, who look upon themselves as the 
legitimate owners of the Terrorist tradition, consider 
that for this very reason they are called upon to direct 


the proletarian movement ; * they display much more 
condescension to the S5nidicalists than the other ParUa- 
mentary Socialists; they are inclined to assert that the 
workers' organisations will come to understand in the 
end that they cannot do better than to put themselves 
under their tuition. It seems to me that Jaur^s himself, 
when writing the Histoire socialiste of '93, thought more 
than once of the teachings which this past, a thousand 
times dead, might yield to him for the conduct of the 

Proper attention has not always been given to the 
great changes which have taken place since 1870 in the 
way people judge the revolution ; yet these changes 
must be considered if we wish to understand contemporary 
ideas relative to violence. 

For a very long time the Revolution appeared to be 
essentially a succession of glorious wars, which a people 
famished for liberty and carried away by the noblest 
passions had maintained against a coalition of all the 
powers of oppression and error. Riots and coups d'etat, 
the struggles between parties often destitute of any 
scruple and the banishment of the vanquished, the 
Parhamentary debates and the adventures of illustrious 
men, in a word, all the events of its political history were 
in the eyes of our fathers only very secondary accessories 
to the wars of liberty. 

For about twenty-five years the form of government 
in France had been at issue ; after campaigns before 
which the memories of Caesar and Alexander paled the 

* The reader may usefully refer to a very interesting chapter of 
Bernstein's book, Socialisme thdorique et socialdemocratie pratique, 
pp. 47-63. Bernstein, who knows nothing of the aims of our present- 
day syndicalism, has not, in my opinion, drawn from Marxism all that 
it contains. His book, moreover, was written at a time when it was 
impossible still to understand the revolutionary movement, in view of 
which these reflections are written. 


charter of 1814 had definitely incorporated in the national 
tradition, the Parliamentary system, Napoleonic legisla- 
tion, and the Church estabhshed by the Concordat ; 
war had given an irrevocable judgment whose preambles, 
as Proudhon said, had been dated from Vahny, from 
Jemmapes, and from fifty other battlefields, and whose 
conclusions ^ had been received at Saint-Ouen by Louis 
XVIIL' Protected by the prestige of the wars of liberty, 
the new institutions had become inviolable, and the 
ideology which was built up to explain them became a 
faith which seemed for a long time to have for the French 
the value which the revelation of Jesus has for the 

From time to time eloquent writers have thought 
that they could set up a current of reaction against 
these doctrines, and the Church had hopes that it might 
get the better of what it called the error of liberalism. A 
long period of admiration for medieval art and of con- 
tempt for the period of Voltaire seemed to threaten the 
new ideology with ruin ; but all these attempts to return 
to the past left no trace except in literary history. There 
were times when those in power governed in the least 
liberal manner, but the principles of the modem regime 
were never seriously threatened. This fact could not be 
explained by the power of reason and by some law of 
progress ; its cause lies simply in the epic of the wars 

1 [The word "conclusions" is employed in two senses in civil pro- 
ceedings. Each counsel presents his claims and arguments to the court 
in writing in a document which is called " conclusion." On the other 
hand, at the end of the case the ministre public states what, in his 
opinion, is the decision the court ought to make for the best administra- 
tion of Justice ; these are the " conclusions " of the ministre public. 
The judgment always declares that the ministre public has been heard 
in his " conclusion." Proudhon uses the word in the second sense. 
On the return of the Bourbons, Louis XVIII. issued a proclamation in 
which he stated the principles on which it seemed to him the govern- 
ment of the country must henceforth rest. — Trans. Note.] 

* Proudhon, La Guerre ei la paix, livre v. chap. iii. 


which had filled the French soul with an enthusiasm 
analogous to that provoked by religions. 

This mihtary epic gave an epical colour to all the events 
of internal politics ; party struggles were thus raised to 
the level of an Iliad ; politicians became giants, and the 
revolution, which Joseph de Maistre had denounced as 
satanical, was made divine. The bloody scenes of the 
Terror were episodes without great significance by the 
side of the enormous hecatombs of war, and means were 
found to envelop them in a dramatic mythology ; riots 
were elevated to the same rank as illustrious battles ; 
and calmer historians vainly endeavoured to bring the 
Revolution and the Empire down to the plane of common 
history. The prodigious triumphs of the revolutionary 
and imperial arms rendered all criticism impossible. 

The war of 1870 changed all that. At the moment 
of the fall of the Second Empire the immense majority 
in France still firmly believed the legends which had been 
spread about regarding the armies of volunteers, the 
miraculous role of the representatives of the people, and 
the improvised generals ; experience produced a cruel 
disillusion. Tocqueville had written : ** The Convention 
created the policy of the impossible, the theory of furious 
madness, the cult of blind audacity." ^ The disasters 
of 1870 brought the country back to practical, prudent, 
and prosaic conditions ; the first result of these disasters 
was the development of the conception most opposed to 
that spoken of by Tocqueville ; this was the idea of I 
opportimism, which has now been introduced even intof 
Socialism. I 

Another consequence was the change that took place 
in all revolutionary values, and notably the modification in 
the opinions which were held on the subject of violence. 

After 1871 everybody in France thought only of the 

1 Tocqueville, Milanges, p. 189. 



search for the most suitable means of setting the country 
on its feet again. Taine endeavoured to apply the methods 
of the most scientific psychology to this question, and he 
looked upon the history of the Revolution as a social 
experiment. He hoped to be able to make quite clear 
the danger presented in his opinion by the Jacobin spirit, 
and thus to induce his contemporaries to change the 
course of French pohtics by abandoning ideas which had 
seemed incorporated in the national tradition, and which 
were all the more solidly rooted in people's minds because 
nobody had ever discussed their origin. Taine failed in 
his enterprise, as Le Play and Renan failed, as all those 
will fail who try to found an intellectual and moral reform 
on investigations, on scientific syntheses, and on demon- 

It cannot be said, however, that Taine's immense 
labour was accomplished to no purpose ; the history of 
the Revolu^V ^ was thoroughly overhauled ; the mihtary 
epic no longer dominates people's judgments about 
political events. The hfe of men, the inner workings of 
factions, the material needs which determine the tendencies 
of the great masses have now come into the foreground. 
In the speech which he made on September 24, 1905, at 
the inauguration of the monument to Taine at Vouziers, 
the deputy Hubert, while giving all homage to the great 
and many-sided talent of his illustrious compatriot, 
expressed a regret that the epic side of the Revolution 
had been disregarded by him in a systematic manner. 
These are superfluous regrets ; the epic vision can hence- 
forth no longer govern that political history ; an idea of 
the grotesque effects to which this constant desire to 
return to the old methods may lead can be obtained by 
reading Jaures's Histoire socialiste. In vain does Jaur^s 
revive all the most melodramatic images of the old 
rhetoric ; the only effect he manages to produce is one of 


The prestige of the great revolutionary days has been 
directly hit by the comparison with contemporary civil 
struggles ; there was nothing during the Revolution 
which could bear comparison with the battles which 
ensanguined Paris in 1848 and in 1871 ; July 14 and 
August 10 seem to us now mere scuffles which would not 
have made an energetic Government tremble. 

There is yet another reason, still hardly recognised 
by professional writers on revolutionary history, which 
has contributed a great deal towards taking all the 
romance out of these events. There can be no national 
epic about things which the people cannot picture to 
themselves as reproducible in a near future ; popular 
poetry implies the future much more than the past ; it 
is for this reason that the adventures of the Gauls, of 
Charlemagne, of the Crusades, of Joan of Arc cannot form 
the subject of a narrative capable of moving any but 
Uterary people.^ Since the people have become convinced 
that contemporary Governments cannot be overthrown 
by riots like those of July 14 and August 10, they have 
ceased to look upon the events of these days as epical. 
Parliamentary SociaHsts, who would hke to utilise the | \ 
memory of the Revolution to excite the ardour of the 
people, and who ask them at the same time to put all 
their confidence in Parliamentarism, are very inconsistent, 
for they are themselves helping to ruin the epic, whose 
prestige they wish to maintain in their speeches. 

But then what remains of the Revolution when we 
have taken away the epic of the wars against the coalition, 
and of that of the victories of the populace ? What 

* It is very remarkable that in the seventeenth century Boileau 
had already pronounced against the supernatural Christian epic ; this 
was because his contemporaries, however religious they might have 
been, did not expect that angels would come to help Vauban to capture 
fortresses ; they did not doubt what was related in the Bible, but they 
did not see matter in it for epics, because these marvels were not 
destined to be reproduced. 


remains is not very savoury : police operations, pro- 
scriptions, and sittings of servile courts of law. The 
\ employment of the force of the State against the van- 
\ quished shocks us all the more because so many of the 
\ coryphees of the Revolution were soon to be distinguished 
i (among the servants of Napoleon, and to employ the 
\ jsame poUce zeal on behalf of the Emperor as they did 
on behalf of the Terror. In a country which had been 
convulsed by so many changes of Government, and which 
consequently had known so many recantations, political 
justice had something particularly odious about it, 
because the criminal of to-day might become the judge 
of to-morrow : General Malet could say before the 
council of war which condemned him in 1812 that had 
he succeeded he would have had for his accomplices the 
whole of France and his judges themselves.^ 

It is useless to carry these reflections any further ; 
the slightest observation will suffice to show that pro- 
letarian violence recalls a mass of painful memories of 
those past times : instinctively, people start thinking 
of the committees of revolutionary inspection, of the 
brutalities of suspicious agents, coarsened and frightened 
by fear, of the tragedies of the guillotine. You under- 
stand, therefore, why Parhamentary Sociahsts make such 
great efforts to persuade the public that they have the 
souls of sensitive shepherds, that their hearts are over- 
flowing with good feeling, and that they have only one 
passion — hatred of violence. They would readily give 
themselves out to be the protectors of the middle class 

1 Ernest Hamel, Histoire de la conspiration du giniral Malet, p. 241. 
According to some newspapers, Jaur^s, in his evidence before the Court 
of Assizes of the Seine on June 5, 1907, in the Bousquet-Levy trial, 
said that the police officers would show more consideration for the 
accused, Bousquet, when he had become a legislator. [Bousquet was 
the secretary of the bakers' syndicate, with whom the police dealt 
rather harshly. As he was a good orator Jaurds looked upon him as 
a future deputy. — Trans. Noie.] 


against proletarian violence ; and in order to heighten 
their prestige as humanitarians they never fail to shun 
all contact with anarchists ; sometimes, even, they shun 
this contact with an abruptness which is not without 
a certain mixture of cowardice and hypocrisy. 

When Millerand was the unquestioned chief of the 
Socialist party in Parliament, he advised his party to 
he afraid to frighten ; and, as a matter of fact, Socialist 
deputies would obtain very few votes if they did not 
manage to convince the general public that they are very 
reasonable people, great enemies of the old practices of 
bloody men, and solely occupied in meditating on the 
philosophy of future law. In a long speech given on 
October 8, 1905, at Limoges, Jaur^s strove to reassure 
the middle class much more than had been done hitherto ; 
he informed them that victorious Socialism would show 
princely generosity, and that he was studying the different 
ways in which the former holders of property might be 
indemnified. A few years ago Millerand promised in- 
demnities to the poor [Petite Republique, March 25, 1898) ; 
now everybody will be put on the same footing, and 
Jaur^s assures us that Vandervelde has written things 
on this subject full of profundity. I am quite willing to 
take his word for it ! 

The social revolution is conceived by Jaur^s as a kind 
of bankruptcy ; substantial annuities will be given to the 
middle class of to-day : then from generation to genera- 
tion these annuities will decrease. These plans must 
often seem very alluring to financiers accustomed to 
draw great advantages from bankruptcies ; I have no 
doubt that the shareholders of L'Humanitd think these 
ideas marvellous ; they will be made liquidators of the 
bankruptcy, and will pocket large fees, which will com- 
pensate them for the losses which this newspaper has 
caused them. 

In the eyes of the contemporary middle class every- 


thing is admirable which dispels the idea of violence. 
I f Our middle class desire to die in peace — after them the 


Let us now examine the violence of '93 a little more 
closely, and endeavour to see whether it can be identified 
with that of contemporary SyndicaHsm. 

Fifteen years ago Drumont, speaking of Socialism 
and of its future, wrote these sentences, which then 
appeared exceedingly paradoxical to many people : 
** The historian, who is always somewhat of a prophet, 
might say to the Conservatives, ' Salute the working-men 
leaders of the Commune, you will never see their like again ! 
. . . Those who are to come will be malicious, wicked, 
and vindictive in a different way from the men of 1871. 
Henceforward, a new feeling takes possession of the 
French proletariat : hatred.' " ^ These were not the airy 
words of a man of letters : Drumont learned what he 
knew of the Commune and the Socialist world from 
Malon, of whom he gave a very appreciative portrait in 
his book. 

This sinister prediction was founded on the idea that 
the working man was getting farther and farther away 
from the national tradition, and nearer to the middle 
class, which is much more accessible than he is to bad 
feeling. ** It was the middle-class element," said Drumont, 
*' which was most ferocious in the Commune, the vicious 
and bohemian middle class of the Latin Quarter ; the 
popular element, amid this dreadful crisis, remained 
human, that is French. . . . Among the internationalists 
who formed part of the Commime four only pronounced 
themselves in favour of violent measures." ^ As will be 
seen, Drumont has got no farther than that naive philo- 

1 Drumont. La Fin d'un monde, pp. 137-138. 
2 Drumont, op. cit. p. 128. 


sophy of the eighteenth century, and of the Utopians 
prior to 1848, according to which men will follow the 
injunctions of the moral law all the better for not having 
been spoiled by civihsation ; in descending from the 
superior classes to the poorer classes a greater number of 
good qualities are foimd ; good is only natural to in- 
dividuals who have remained close to a state of nature. 

This theory about the nature of the classes led Drumont 
to a rather curious historical speculation : none of our 
revolutions was so bloody as the first, because it was 
conducted by the middle class — " in proportion as the 
people became more intimately mixed up with revolutions, 
they became less ferocious " — " the proletariat, when, 
for the first time, it had acquired an effective share of 
authority, was infinitely less sanguinary than the middle 
class." 1 We cannot remain content with the easy 
explanations which satisfied Drumont ; but it is certain 
that something has changed since '93. We have to ask 
ourselves whether the ferocity of the old revolutionaries 
was not due to reasons depending on the past history of 
the middle class, so that in confusing the abuses of the 
revolutionary middle-class force of '93 with the violence 
of our revolutionary Syndicalists a grave error would be 
committed : the word r evolutionary would, in this case, 
have two perfectly distinct meanings. 

The Third Estate which filled the assembUes in the 
revolutionary epoch, what may be called the official 
Third Estate, was not a body of agriculturists and leaders 
of industry ; power was never then in the hands of manu- 
facturers, but in the hands of the lawyers {hasochiens).^ 
Taine was very much struck by the fact that out of 577 
deputies of the Third Estate in the Constituent Assembly, 

» Drumont, op. cit. p. 136. 

« Basoche was a name given somewhat ironically to all the people 
employed in the law courts — principally solicitors and ushers. 


there were 373 " unknown barristers and lawyers of a 
minor order, notaries, King's attorneys, court-roll com- 
missioners, judges and recorders of the presidial bench, 
bailiffs and lieutenants of the bailiwick, simple practi- 
tioners shut up since their youth within the narrow circle 
of a mediocre jurisdiction or the routine of continual 
scribbling, without any other escape than philosophical 
wanderings through imaginary spaces under the guidance 
of Rousseau or of Raynal." ^ We have some difficulty 
nowadays in understanding the importance which lawyers 
possessed in ancient France ; but a multitude of juris- 
dictions existed ; property owners were extremely 
punctilious in going to law about questions which appear 
to us nowadays as of very minor importance, but which 
seemed of enormous importance to them on account of 
the dovetailing of feudal law with the law of property ; 
functionaries of a judicial order were found everywhere, 
and they enjoyed the greatest prestige with the people. 
This class brought to the Revolution a great deal of 
administrative capacity ; it was owing to them that the 
country was able to pass easily through the crisis which 
shook it for ten years, and that Napoleon was able to 
reconstruct regular administrative services so rapidly ; 
but this class also brought a mass of prejudices which 
caused those of its representatives who occupied high 
positions to commit grave errors. It is impossible to 
understand the character of Robespierre, for example, 
if we compare him to the politicians of to-day ; we must 
always see in him the serious lawyer, taken up with his 
duties, anxious not to tarnish the professional honour of 
an orator of the bar ; moreover, he had literary leanings 
and was a disciple of Rousseau. He had scruples about 
legality which astonish the historians of to-day ; when 
he was obliged to come to supreme resolutions and to 
defend himself before the Convention, he showed a sim- 

1 Taine, La Revolution, tome i. p. 155. 


plicity which bordered on stupidity. The famous law 
of the 22nd Prairial, with which he has been so often 
reproached and which gave so rapid a pace to the revolu- 
tionary courts, is the masterpiece of his type of mind ; 
the whole of the Old Regime is found in it, expressed in 
clear-cut formulas. 

One of the fundamental ideas of the Old Regime had 
been the employment of the penal procedure to ruin any 
power which was an obstacle to the monarchy. It seems 
that in all primitive societies the penal law, at its inception, 
was a protection granted to the chief and to a few privileged 
persons whom he honoured with special favour ; it is 
only much later that the legal power serves to safeguard, 
indiscriminately, the persons and goods of all the inhabit- 
ants of a country. The Middle Ages being a return to 
the customs of very ancient times, it was natural that 
they should reproduce exceedingly archaic ideas about 
justice, and that the courts of justice should come to 
be considered as instruments of royal greatness. An 
historical accident happened to favour the extraordinary 
development of this theory of criminal administration. 
The Inquisition furnished a model for courts which, set 
in motion on very slight pretexts, prosecuted people 
who embarrassed authority, with great persistence, and 
made it impossible for them to harm the latter. The 
monarchy borrowed from the Inquisition many of its 
procedures, and nearly always followed the same principles. 

The king constantly demanded of his courts of justice 
that they should work for the enlargement of his terri- 
tories ; it seems strange to us nowadays that Louis XIV. 
should have had annexations proclaimed by commissions 
of magistrates ; but he was following the old tradition ; 
many of his predecessors had used Parliament to confiscate 
feudal manors for very arbitrary motives. Justice, 
which seems to us nowadays created to secure the pros- 
perity of production, and to permit its free and constantly 



widening development, seemed created in former days 
to secure the greatness of the monarchy : its essential 
aim was not justice, hut the welfare of the State. 

It was very difficult to establish strict discipUne in 
the services set up by royalty for war and administration 
Enquiries had continually to be made in order to pimish 
imfaithful or disobedient employees ; kings employed, 
for this purpose, men taken from their courts of law ; 
thus they came to confuse acts of discipUnary surveillance 
with the repression of crimes. Lawyers must transform 
everything according to their habits of mind ; in this 
way negligence, ill-will, or carelessness became revolt 
against authority, crime, or treason. 

The Revolution piously gathered up this tradition, 
gave an importance to imaginary crimes which was all 
the greater because its political courts of law carried on 
their operations in the midst of a populace maddened 
by the seriousness of the peril ; it seemed quite natural 
to explain the defeats of generals by criminal inten- 
tions, and to guillotine people who had not been able 
to realise hopes fostered by a public opinion, that had 
returned to the superstitions of childhood. Our penal 
code contains not a few paradoxical articles dating from 
this time ; nowadays it is not easy to understand how a 
citizen can be seriously accused of plotting or of keeping 
up a correspondence with foreign powers or their agents 
in order to induce them to begin hostihties, or to enter 
into war with France, or to furnish them with the means 
therefor. Such a crime supposes that the State can be 
imperilled by the act of one person ; this appears scarcely 
credible to us.^ 

Actions against enemies of the king were always con- 
ducted in an exceptional manner ; the procedure was 

* Yet this was the article which was applied to Dreyfus, without 
anybody, moreover, having attempted to prove that France had been 
in danger. 


simplified as much as possible ; flimsy proofs which would 
not have sufficed for ordinary crimes were accepted ; 
the endeavour was to make a terrible and profoundly 
intimidating example. All this is to be foimd in Robes- 
pierre's legislation. The law of the 22nd Prairial lays 
down rather vague definitions of political crime, so as 
not to let any enemy of the Revolution escape ; and the 
kind of proofs required are worthy of the purest tradition 
of the Old Regime and of the Inquisition. '* The proof 
necessary to condemn the enemies of the people is any 
kind of document, material, moral, verbal or written, 
which can naturally obtain the assent of any just and 
reasonable mind. Juries in giving their verdict should 
be guided solely by what love of their country indicates 
to their conscience ; their aim is the triumph of the republic 
and, the ruin of its enemies." We have in this celebrated 
Terrorist law the strongest expression of the theory of 
the predominance of the St ate. ^ 

The philosophy of the eighteenth century happened 
to render these methods still more formidable. It pro- 
fessed, in fact, to formulate a return to natural law ; 
humanity had been till then corrupted by the fault of a 
small number of people whose interest it had been to 
deceive it ; but the true means of returning to the 
principles of primitive goodness, of truth, and of justice 
had at last been discovered ; all opposition to so excellent 
a reform, one so easy to apply and so certain of success, 
was the most criminal act imaginable ; the innovators 
were resolved to show themselves inexorable in destroying 
the evil influence which bad citizens might exercise for 
the piupose of hindering the regeneration of humanity. 
Indulgence was a culpable weakness, for it amoimted to 
nothing less than the sacrifice of the happiness of multi- 
tudes to the caprices of incorrigible people, who gave 

* The details themselves of this law can only be explained by com- 
paring them with the rules of the old penal law. 


proof of an incomprehensible obstinacy, who refused to 
recognise evidence, and only lived on lies. 

From the Inquisition to the political justice of the 
monarchy, and from this to the revolutionary courts of 
justice, there was a constant progress towards greater 
severity in laws, the extension of the use of force, and the 
amplification of authority. For a considerable time the 
Church had felt doubts about the value of the exceptional 
methods practised by its inquisitors.^ The monarchy, 
especially when it had reached its full maturity, was 
troubled with very few scruples about the matter ; but 
the Revolution displayed the scandal of its superstitious 
cult of the State quite openly, in the full light of day. 

A reason of an economical order gave to the State at 
that time a strength which the Church had never possessed. 
At the beginning of modem times. Governments, by their 
maritime expeditions and the encouragement they gave 
to industry, had played a very great part in production ; 
but in the eighteenth century this part had become 
exceptionally important in the minds of theorists. People 
at that time had their heads full of great projects ; they 
conceived kingdoms as vast companies undertaking to 
colonise and cultivate new lands, and they made efforts 
to ensure the good working of these companies. Thus 
the State was the god of the reformers. " They desire," 
wrote Tocqueville, " to borrow the authority of the 
central power and. to use it to break up and to remake 
everything according to a new plan which they have 
themselves conceived ; the central power alone appears 
to them capable of accomplishing such a task. The power 
of the State must be limitless, as its rights, ^ they say ; 

1 Modern authors, by taking literally certain instructions of the 
papacy, have been able to maintain that the Inquisition had been 
relatively indulgent, having regard to the customs of the time. 

* Tocqueville is probably alluding here to the maxims of Blackstone 
on the unlimited power of the English Parliament. The economists 


all that is necessary is to persuade the State to make a 
suitable use of this power." ^ The physiocrats seemed 
ready to sacrifice individuals to the common weal ; they 
had no great love of liberty, and thought the idea of an 
equipoise of powers absurd ; they hoped to convert the 
State ; their system is defined by Tocqueville as "a 
democratic despotism " ; the Government would have 
been in theory the representative of everybody, controlled 
by an enlightened public opinion ; practically it was an 
absolute master.^ One of the things which most astonished 
Tocqueville in the course of his studies of the Old Regime 
is the admiration felt by the physiocrats for China, which 
appeared to them as the type of good government, because 
in that country there were only valets and clerks carefully 
catalogued and chosen by competition. ^ 

Since the Revolution there has been such an upheaval 
of ideas that we have considerable difficulty in imder- 
standing correctly the conceptions of our fathers.* The 
capitalist economic system has thrown full light on the 
extraordinary power of the individual imaided by the 
State ; the confidence which the men of the eighteenth 
century had in the industrial capacities of the State seems 
puerile to everybody who has studied production else- 
where than in the insipid books of the sociologists, which 
still preserve very carefully the cult for the blunders of 
the past ; the law of nature has become an inexhaustible 
subject of banter for people who have the slightest 

of the eighteenth century thought that the State had the right to do 
everything, since it was the expression of " reason," and no single force 
could oppose the action of this " reason." 

^ Tocqueville, L'Ancien Rigime et la R&volution, p. 100. 

■ Tocqueville, op. cit. pp. 235-240. 

• Tocqueville, op. cit. p. 241. 

* In the history of judicial ideas in France, full consideration must 
be given to the dividing up of landed property, which, by multiplying 
the independent heads of productive units, contributed more to the 
spread of judicial ideas among the masses than was ever done among 
the literate classes by the finest treatises on philosophy. 


knowledge of history ; the employment of the courts of 
law as a means of coercing a political adversary arouses 
universal indignation, and people with ordinary common 
sense hold that it ruins all judicial conceptions. 

Sumner Maine points out that the relationships of 
governments and citizens have been completely over- 
hauled since the end of the eighteenth century ; formerly 
the State was always supposed to be good and wise, 
consequently any attempt to hinder its working was 
looked upon as a grave offence ; the Liberal system 
supposes, on the contrary, that the citizen, left free, chooses 
the better part, and that he exercises the first of his rights 
in criticising the Government, which has passed from the 
position of master to that of servant.^ Maine does not 
say what is the cause of this transformation ; the cause 
seems to me to be above all of an economic order. In 
the new state of things political crime is an act of simple 
revolt which cannot carry with it disgrace of any kind, 
which is combated for reasons of prudence, but which 
no longer merits the name of crime, for its author in no 
way resembles a criminal. 

We are not perhaps better, more human, more sensitive 
to the misfortunes of others than were the men of '93 ; 
and I should even be rather disposed to assert that the 
country is probably less moral than it was at that time ; 
but we are no longer dominated to the same extent that 
our fathers were by this superstition of the God-State, to 
which they sacrificed so many \actims. The ferocity of 
the members of the National Convention is easily ex- 
plained by the influence of the conceptions which the 
Third Estate derived from the detestable practices of the 
Old Regime. 

1 Sumner Maine, Essais sur le gouvernement populaire, French 
trauis., p. 20. 



It would be strange if the old ideas were quite dead ; 
the Dreyfus case showed us that the immense majority 
of the officers and priests still conceived justice in the 
manner of the Old Regime and looked upon condemnations 
for *' State reasons" as quite natural.^ That should not 
surprise us, for these two t5^es of people, never having 
had any direct relationship with production, can under- 
stand nothing about law. The revolt of the enlightened 
public against the practices of the Minister of War was so 
great that for a moment it might have been believed 
that " reasons of State '* would no longer be admitted 
as a pretext for condemnation (outside the two types 
mentioned above), except by the readers of the Petit 
Journal, whose mentality would thus be characterised 
and shown to be much the same as that which existed a 
century ago. We know now, alas ! by cruel experience, 
that the State had its high priests and its fervent wor- 
shippers even among the Dreyfusards. 

The Dreyfus case was scarcely over when the Govern- 
ment of " Republican defence " began another political 
prosecution, in the name of state policy, and accumulated 
almost as many lies as the Etat-Major (army council) 
had accumulated in the Dreyfus trial. No serious person 
nowadays can doubt that the great plot for which Deroul^de, 
Buffet, and Lur-Saluces were condemned was an invention 
of the police ; the siege of what has been called the Fort 
Chabrol was arranged in order to make Parisians believe 
that they had been on the eve of a civil war. The victims 
of this judicial crime were granted an amnesty, but the 

1 The extraordinary and illegal severity which was brought to bear 
in the application of the penalty is explained by the fact that the aim 
of the trial was to terrify certain spies who, by their situation, were 
out of reach ; whether Dreyfus was guilty or innocent troubled his 
accusers little ; the essential thing was to protect the State from 
treachery and to reassure the French people, who were maddened by 
the fear of weir. 


amnesty should not have sufficed : if the Dreyfusards 
had been sincere they should have demanded a recogni- 
tion by the Senate of the scandalous error which the Kes 
of the police had caused it to commit ; on the contrary, 
they seem to have seen nothing that violated the principles 
of eternal justice, in their continued support of a condemna- 
tion founded on the most evident fraud. 

Jaures and many other eminent Dreyfusards commended 
General Andre and Combes for having organised a regular 
system of secret accusations. Kautsky warmly re- 
proached him for his conduct ; the German writer 
demanded that Socialists should not continue to repre- 
sent " the wretched practices of the middle-class Republic " 
as great democratic actions, and that they should remain 
" faithful to the principle which declares that the in- 
former is the worst kind of rascal " {Debats, November 13, 
1904). The saddest thing about this affair was that 
Jaures asserted that Colonel Hartmann, who protested 
against the system of fiches (secret reports), had himself 
employed similar methods ; ^ the latter wrote to him : 
" I pity you for this — that you have come to defend to-day, 
and by such means, the guilty acts which, with us, you 
condemned a few years ago ; I pity you, that you should 
believe yourself obliged to make the Republican form of 
Government responsible for the vile proceedings of the 
police spies who dishonour it " {Debats, November 5, 1904). 
Experience has always shown us hitherto that revolu- 
tionaries plead ** reasons of State " as soon as they get 
into power, that they then employ poHce methods and 

1 In L'Humanite of November 17, 1904, there is a letter from Paul 
Guieysse and from Vazeilles, declaring that nothing of this kind can 
be imputed to Colonel Hartmann. Jaures follows this letter with a 
strange commentary ; he considers that the informers acted in perfect 
good faith, and he regrets that the colonel should have furnished 
" imprudently, further matter for the systematic campaign of the 
reactionary newspapers." Jaures has no suspicion that this com- 
mentary made his own case much worse, and that it was not unworthy 
of a disciple of Escobar. 


look upon justice as a weapon which they may use 
unfairly against their enemies. Parliamentary Socialists 
do not escape the universal rule ; they preserve the old 
cult of the State ; they are therefore prepared to commit 
all the misdeeds of the Old Regime and of the Revolution. 

A fine collection of platitudinous political maxims 
might be composed by going through Jaur^s's Histoire 
socialiste. I have never had the patience to read the 
1824 pages devoted to the story of the Revolution between 
August 10, 1792, and the fall of Robespierre ; I have 
simply turned over the leaves of this tedious book, and 
seen that it contained a mixture of a philosophy worthy 
of M. Pantalon and a policy fitting a purveyor to the 
guillotine. For a long time I had reckoned that Jaures 
would be capable of every ferocity against the van- 
quished ; I saw that I had not been mistaken ; but I 
should not have thought that he was capable of so much 
platitude : in his eyes the vanquished are always in the 
wrong, and victory fascinates our great defender of eternal 
justice so much that he is ready to consent to every 
proscription demanded of him : *' Revolutions," he says, 
" claim from a man the most frightful sacrifices, not only 
of his rest, not only of his life, but of human tenderness 
and pity." ^ Why write so much, then, about the in- 
humanity of the executioners of Dreyfus ? They also 
sacrificed " human tenderness " to what appeared to 
them to be the safety of the country. 

A few years ago the Republicans were extremely 
indignant with the Vicomte de Vogii^, who, when receiving 
Hanotaux into the French Academy, called the coup 
d'etat of 1851 ** a somewhat harsh police exploit." ^ 

1 J. Jaur^s, La Convention, p. 1732. 

» This was on March 24, 1898, at a particularly critical moment 
of the Dreyfus case, when the Nationalists were asking that agitators 
and enemies of the army should be swept away. J. Reinach says that 
De Vogu6 openly invited the army to begin again the work of 1850 
(Histoire de V affaire Dreyfus, tome iii. p. 545). 



Jaurds, taught by revolutionary history, now reasons 
in exactly the same manner as the jovial vicomte ; ^ he 
praises, for example, " the policy of vigour and of wisdom '* 
which consisted in forcing the Convention to expel the 
Girondins " with a certain appearance of legality." * 

The massacres of September 1792 embarrass him 
somewhat ; legality is not very apparent here, but he 
has big words and bad reasons for every ugly cause ; 
Danton's conduct was not very worthy of admiration at 
the time of these melancholy happenings, but Jaur^ 
must excuse him, since Danton was triumphant during 
this period. '* He did not think it was his duty as a 
revolutionary and patriotic minister to enter upon a 
struggle with these misguided popular forces. How can 
we refine the metal of the bells when they are sounding 
the alarm of imperilled liberty ? " ' It seems to me that 
Cavaignac might have explained his conduct in the Dreyfus 
case in the same way. To the people who accused him 
of being hand in hand with the Anti-Semites, he might 
have answered that his duty as a patriotic minister did 
not compel him to enter upon a struggle with the mis- 
guided populace, and that on the days when the safety 
of national defence is at stake we cannot refine the 
metal of the bells which are soimding the alarm of the 
country in danger. 

When he comes to the period when Camille Desmoulins 
sought to stir up a movement of opinion strong enough 
to stop the Terror, Jaur^s speaks energetically against 
this attempt. He acknowledges, however, a few pages 
farther on, that the guillotine system could not last for 
ever ; but Desmoulins, having succumbed, is wrong in 
the eyes of our humble worshipper of success. Jaur^s 

* De Vogu6 has the habit in his polemics of thanking his adversaries 
for having given him much amusement ; that is why I take the Uberty 
of calling him jovial, although his writings are rather soporific. 

» J. Jaur^s, op. cit. p. 1434. 

» J. Jaurfes, op. cit. p. 77. 


accuses the author of the Vieux Cordelier of forgetting 
the conspiracies, the treasons, the corruptions, and all 
the dreams with which the Terrorists fed their infatuated 
imaginations ; he is even ironical enough to speak of 
" free France ! " and he brings forth this sentence, worthy 
of a Jacobin pupil of Joseph Prudhomme : " The knife 
of Desmoulins was chiselled with an incomparable art ; 
but he planted it in the heart of the Revolution." ^ 
When Robespierre no longer commands the majority in 
the Convention he is, as a matter of course, put to death 
by the other Terrorists, in virtue of the legitimate working 
of the Parliamentary institutions of that time ; but to 
appeal to mere public opinion against the Government 
leaders, that was the *' crime " of Desmoulins. His 
crime was also that committed by Jaur^s at the time he 
defended Dreyfus against the great leaders of the army 
and the Government ; how many times has not Jaur^ 
been accused of compromising the national defence ? 
But that time is already a long way off ; and our orator 
at that period, not having yet tasted the advantages of 
power, did not possess a theory of the State as ferocious 
as that which he possesses to-day. 

I think that I have said sufficient to enable me to con- 
clude that if by chance our Parliamentary Socialists get 
possession of the reins of Government, they will prove to 
be worthy successors of the Inquisition, of the Old Regime, 
and of Robespierre ; political courts will be at work on 
a large scale, and we may even suppose that the unfortu- 
nate law of 1848, which abolished the death penalty in 
poUtical matters, will be repealed. Thanks to this reform, 
we might again see the State triumphing by the hand of 
the executioner. 

Proletarian acts of violence have no resemblance to these 
proscriptions ; they are purely and simply acts of war ; 

* J. Jaur^s, op. cit. p. 1731. 


they have the value of military demonstrations, and serve 
to mark the separation of classes. Everything in war is 
carried on without hatred and without the spirit of 
revenge : in war the vanquished are not killed ; non- 
combatants are not made to bear the consequences of the 
disappointments which the armies may have experienced 
on the fields of battle ; ^ force is then displayed according 
to its own nature, without ever professing to borrow any- 
thing from the judicial proceedings which society sets up 
against criminals. 

The more Syndicalism develops, by abandoning the 
old superstitions which come to it from the Old Regime 
and from the Church — through the men of letters, pro- 
fessors of philosophy, and historians of the Revolution, — 
the more will social conflicts assume the character of a 
simple struggle, similar to those of armies on campaign. 
We cannot censure too severely those who teach the people 
that they ought to carry out the highly idealistic decrees 
of a progressive justice. Their efforts will only result in 
the maintenance of those ideas about the State which 
provoked the bloody acts of '93, whilst the idea of a 
class war, on the contrary, tends to refine the conception 
of violence. 


Syndicahsm in France is engaged on an antimilitarist 
propaganda, which shows clearly the immense distance 
which separates it from Parliamentary Socialism in its 
conception of the nature of the State. Many newspapers 
believe that all this is merely an exaggerated humanitarian 
movement, provoked by the articles of Herve ; this is a 

1 I bring to notice here a fact which is perhaps not very well known : 
the Spanish war in the time of Napoleon was the occasion of innumerable 
atrocities, but Colonel Lafaille says that in Catalonia the murders 
and cruelties were never committed by Spanish soldiers who had been 
enlisted for some time and had become familiar with the usages of war 
{Mlmoires sur les campagnes de Catalogne de j8o8 d 1814, pp. 164-165). 


great error. We should be misconceiving the nature of 
the movement if we supposed that it was merely a protest 
against harshness of discipline, against the length of 
military service, or against the presence, in the higher 
ranks, of officers hostile to the existing institutions of 
the country ; ^ these are the reasons which led many 
middle-class people to applaud declamations against the 
army at the time of the Dreyfus case, but they are not the 
Syndicalists' reasons. 

The army is the clearest and the most tangible of all 
possible manifestations of the State, and the one which is 
most firmly connected with its origins and traditions. 
Sjmdicalists do not propose to reform the State, as the 
men of the eighteenth century did ; they want to destroy 
it,* because they wish to realise this idea of Marx's that 
the Socialist revolution ought not to culminate in the 
replacement of one governing minority by another 
minority.^ The Syndicalists outline their doctrine still 
more clearly when they give it a more ideological aspect, 
and declare themselves antipatriotic — following the 
example of the Communist Manifesto, 

It is impossible that there should be the slightest 
understanding between Syndicalists and official Socialists 
on this question ; the latter, of course, speak of breaking 
up everything, but they attack men in power rather than 
power itself ; they hope to possess the State forces, and 

1 According to Joseph Reinach, an error was committed after the 
war in choosing as generals former pupils of the military schools 
(Saint-Cyr and the Polytechnique) . He said that the Jesuit colleges 
had sent many clericals to the School, and it would have been better 
to choose instead officers who had risen from the ranks ; the generals 
would have then been less clerical. Loc. cit. pp. 555-556 (I believe that 
his system would not have had the result he imagined it would). 

* " The society which will organise production on the basis of a free 
and equal association of producers will transport the whole machinery 
of State to where its place will be henceforward — in the museum of 
antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe " 
(Engels, Les Origines de la SociitS, French trans, p. 281). 

* Manifeste communiste, translated, Andler, tome i. p. 39. 


they are aware that on the day when they control the 
Government they will have need of an army ; they will 
carry on foreign politics, and consequently they in their 
turn will have to praise the feeling of devotion to the 

Parliamentary Socialists perceive that antipatriotism 
is deeply rooted in the minds of Socialist workmen, and 
they make great efforts to reconcile the irreconcilable ; 
they are anxious not to oppose too strongly ideas to 
which the proletariat has become attached, but at the 
same time they cannot abandon their cherished State, 
which promises them so many delights. They have 
stooped to the most comical oratorical acrobatics in order 
to get over the difficulty. For instance, after the sentence 
of the Court of Assizes of the Seine, condemning Herv6 
and the antimilitarists, the National Coimcil of the 
Socialist party passed a resolution branding this " verdict, 
due to hatred and fear," declaring that a class justice 
could not " respect liberty of opinion," protesting against 
the employment of troops in strikes, and affirming 
" resolutely the necessity for action, and for an inter- 
national understanding among the workers, for the sup- 
pression of war " (Socialiste, January 20, 1906). All 
this is very clever, but the fundamental question is 

Thus it cannot any longer be contested that there is 
an absolute opposition between revolutionary Syndicalism 
and the State ; this opposition takes in France the particu- 
larly harsh form of antipatriotism, because the politicians 
have devoted all their knowledge and ability to the task 
of spreading confusion in people's minds about the 
essence of Socialism. On the plane of patriotism there 
can be no compromises and half-way positions ; it is 
therefore on this plane that the Syndicalists have been 
forced to take their stand when middle-class people of 
every description employed all their powers of seduction 


to corrupt Socialism and to alienate the workers from the 
revolutionary idea. They have been led to deny the idea 
of patriotism by one of those necessities which are met 
with at all times in the course of history,* and which 
philosophers have sometimes great difficulty in explaining 
— ^because the choice is imposed by external conditions, 
and not freely made for reasons drawn from the nature of 
things. This character of historical necessity gives to 
the existing antipatriotic movement a strength which it 
would be useless to attempt to dissimulate by means of 
sophistries. 2 

We have the right to conclude from the preceding 
analysis that Syndicalist violence, perpetrated in the course 
of strikes by proletarians who desire the overthrow of the 
State, must not be confused with those acts of savagery 
which the superstition of the State suggested to the 
revolutionaries of '93, when they had power in their hands 
and were able to oppress the conquered — ^following the 
principles which they had received from the Church and 
from the Monarchy. We have the right to hope that a 
Socialist revolution carried out by pure Syndicalists would 
not be defiled by the abominations which sullied the 
middle-class revolutions. 

1 After the trial of Herve, L6on Daudet wrote : " Those who followed 
this case were thrilled by the testimonies, by no means theatrical, of 
the trade union secretaries " {JLihre Parole, December 31, 1905). 

* Yet Jaur^s had the audacity to declare in the Chamber on May 11, 
1907, that there was only " on the surface of the working-class move- 
ment a few paradoxical and outrageous formulas, which originated, 
not from the negation of the fatherland, but from condemnation of the 
abuse to which word and idea were so often put." Language hke this 
could only have been used before an assembly which was entirely 
ignorant of the working-class movement. 



I. The confusion in Parliamentary Socialism and the clearness 
of the general strike — Myths in history — The value of the 
general strike proved by experience. 

II. Researches made to perfect Marxism — Means of throwing 
light upon it, starting from the point of view of the general 
strike : class war ; preparation for the revolution and 
absence of Utopias ; irrevocable character of the revolution. 

III. Scientific prejudices against the general strike ; doubts about 
science — The clear and the obscure parts in thought — 
Economic incompetence of Parliaments. 

Every time that we attempt to obtain an exact conception 
of the ideas behind proletarian violence we are forced to 
go back to the notion of the general strike ; and this same 
conception may render many other services, and throw 
an miexpected Hght on all the obscure parts of Sociahsm. 
In the last pages of the first chapter I compared the 
general strike to the Napoleonic battle which definitely 
crushes an adversary ; this comparison will help us to 
imderstand the part played by the general strike in the 
world of ideas. 

Mihtary writers of to-day, when discussing the new 
methods of wau: necessitated by the employment of troops 
infinitely more numerous than those of Napoleon, equipped 
with arms much more deadly than those of his time, do 



not for all that imagine that wars will be decided in 
any other way than that of the Napoleonic battle. The 
new tactics proposed must fit into the drama Napoleon 
had conceived ; the detailed development of the combat 
will doubtless be quite different from what it used to be, 
but the end must always be the catastrophic defeat of the 
enemy. The methods of military instruction are intended 
to prepare the soldier for thi& great and terrible action, in 
which everybody must be ready to take part at the first 
signal. From the highest to the lowest, the members of 
a really solid army have always in mind this catastrophic 
issue of international conflicts. 

The revolutionary Syndicates argue about Socialist 
action exactly in the same manner as military writers 
argue about war ; they restrict the whole of Socialism 
to the general strike ; they look upon every combination 
as one that should culminate in this catastrophe ; they 
see in each strike a reduced facsimile, an essay, a prepara- 
tion for the great final upheaval. 

The new school, which calls itself Marxist, Syndicahst, 
and revolutionary, declared in favoiu: of the idea of the 
general strike as soon as it became clearly conscious of 
the true sense of its own doctrine, of the consequences of 
its activity, and of its own originality. It was thus led 
to leave the old official, Utopian, and political tabernacles, 
which hold the general strike in horror, and to laimch 
itself into the true current of the proletarian revolutionary 
movement ; for a long time past the proletariat had made 
adherence to the principle of the general strike the test 
by means of which the Socialism of the workers was 
distinguished from that of the amateur revolutionaries. 

Parliamentary Socialists can only obtain great influence 
if they can manage, by the use of a very confused language, 
to impose themselves on very diverse groups ; for example, 
they must have working-men constituents simple enough 
to allow themselves to be duped by high-sovmding phrases 


about future collectivism ; they are compelled to repre- 
sent themselves as profound philosophers to stupid middle- 
class people who wish to appear to be well informed 
about social questions ; it is very necessary also for 
them to be able to exploit rich people who think that they 
are earning the gratitude of humanity by taking shares 
in the enterprises of Socialist politicians. This influence 
is founded on balderdash, and our bigwigs endeavour — 
sometimes only too successfully — to spread confusion 
among the ideas of their readers ; they detest the general 
strike because all propaganda carried on from that point 
of view is too sociaUstic to please philanthropists. 

In the mouths of these self-styled representatives of 
the proletariat all socialistic formulas lose their real sense. 
The class war still remains the great principle, but it must 
be subordinated to national solidarity.* IntemationaUsm 
is an article of faith about which the most moderate declare 
themselves ready to take the most solenm oaths ; but 
patriotism also imposes sacred duties.* The emancipa- 
tion of the workers must be the work of the workers them- 
selves — their newspapers repeat this every day, — but real 
emancipation consists in voting for a professional poli- 
tician, in securing for him the means of obtaining a 
comfortable situation in the world, in subjecting oneself 
to a leader. In the end the State must disappear — and 

* The Petit Parisien, which makes a specialty of Socialist and 
working-class questions, warned strikers on March 31, 1907, that they 
" must never imagine that they are absolved from the observance of 
the ordinary social duties and responsibilities." 

* At the time when the antimilitarists were beginning to occupy 
public attention, the Petit Parisien was distinguished by its patriotism : 
on October 8, 1905, it published an article on " The Sacred Duty " 
and on " The Worship of this Tricolor Flag which has carried all over 
the World our Glories and our Liberties " ; on January i, 1906, it con- 
gratulated the Jury de la Seine : " The flag has been avenged for the 
insults flung by its detractors on this noble emblem. When it is 
carried through the streets it is saluted. The juries have done more 
than bow to it ; they have gathered round it with respect." This is 
certainly very cautious Socialism. 


they are very careful not to dispute what Engels has 
written on this subject — but this disappearance will take 
place only in a future so far distant that you must prepare 
yourself for it by using the State meanwhile as a means of 
providing the politicians with titbits ; and the best means 
of bringing about the disappearance of the State consists 
in strengthening meanwhile the Governmental machine. 
This method of reasoning resembles that of Gribouille, 
who threw himself into the water in order to escape 
getting wet in the rain. 

Whole pages could be filled with the bare outUnes of 
the contradictory, comical, and quack arguments which 
form the substance of the harangues of our great men ; 
nothing embarrasses them, and they know how to combine, 
in pompous, impetuous, and nebulous speeches, the most 
absolute irreconcilabihty with the most supple opportun- 
ism. A learned exponent of Sociahsm has said that the 
art of reconciling opposites by means of nonsense is the 
most obvious result which he had got from the study of 
the works of Marx.i I confess my extreme incompetence 
in these difficult matters ; moreover, I make no claim 
whatever to be counted among the people upon whom 
politicians confer the title of learned ; yet I cannot easily 
bring myself to admit that this is the sum and substance 
of the Marxian philosophy. 

The controversy between Jaur^sand Clemenceau demon- 
strated quite clearly that our Parliamentary Socialists can 
succeed in deceiving the pubhc only by their equivocation ; 

* Two motions had been discussed at length by the National Council, 
one proposing that the departmental federations should be invited 
to enter the electoral struggle wherever it was possible, the other that 
candidates should be put forward everywhere. One member got up 
and said, " I should be glad of your earnest attention, for the argu- 
ment which I am about to state may at first sight appear strange and 
paradoxical. (These two motions) are not irreconcilable, if we try to 
solve this contradiction according to the natural Marxian method of 
solving any contradiction" {Socialiste, October 7, 1905). It seems that 
nobody understood. And, in fact, it was unintelligible. 


and that, as the result of continually deceiving their readers, 
they have finally lost all sense of honest discussion. In the 
Aurore of September 4, 1905, Clemenceau accuses Jaur^s 
of muddling the minds of his partisans " with meta- 
physical subtleties into which they are incapable of 
following him " ; there is nothing to object to in this 
accusation, save the use of the word metaphysical ; Jaures 
is no more a metaphysician than he is a lawyer or an 
astronomer. In the niunber of October 26 Clemenceau 
proves that his opponent possesses " the art of falsifying 
his texts," and he ends by saying, " It seemed to me 
instructive to expose certain polemical practices which we 
wrongly supposed to be monopoly of the Jesuits." 

Against this noisy, garrulous, and lying Sociahsm, 
which is exploited by ambitious people of every descrip- 
tion, which amuses a few buffoons, and which is admired 
by decadents — revolutionary SyndicaUsm takes its stand, 
and endeavours, on the contrary, to leave nothing in a state 
of indecision ; its ideas are honestly expressed, without 
trickery and without mental reservations ; no attempt 
is made to dilute doctrines by a stream of confused com- 
mentaries. Syndicalism endeavours to employ methods 
of expression which throw a full Hght on things, which 
put them exactly in the place assigned to them by their 
nature, and which bring out the whole value of the forces 
in play. Oppositions, instead of being glozed over, must 
be thrown into sharp relief if we desire to obtain a clear 
idea of the Syndicalist movement ; the groups which are 
struggling one against the other must be shown as separate 
and as compact as possible ; in short, the movements of 
the revolted masses must be represented in such a way 
that the soul of the revolutionaries may receive a deep 
and lasting impression. 

These results could not be produced in any very certain 
manner by the use of ordinary language ; use must be 
made of a body of images which, by intuition alone, and 


before any considered analyses are made, is capable of 
evoking as an undivided whole the mass of sentiments 
which corresponds to the different manifestations of the 
war undertaken by SociaHsm against modem society. 
The Syndicalists solve this problem perfectly, by con- 
centrating the whole of Socialism in the drama of 
the general strike ; there is thus no longer any place 
for the reconciliation of contraries in the equivocations 
of the professors ; everything is clearly mapped out, 
so that only one interpretation of Socialism is possible. 
This method has all the advantages which "integral" 
knowledge has over analysis, according to the doctrine of 
Bergson ; and perhaps it would not be possible to cite 
another example which would so perfectly demonstrate 
the value of the famous professor's doctrines.^ 

The possibiUty of the actual realisation of the general 
strike has been much discussed ; it has been stated that 
the Socialist war could not be decided in one single battle. 
To the people who think themselves cautious, practical, 
and scientific the difficulty of setting great masses of the 
proletariat in motion at the same moment seems pro- 
digious ; they have analysed the difficulties of detail which 
such an enormous struggle would present. It is the opinion 
of the Socialist-sociologists, as also of the politicians, that 
the general strike is a popular dream, characteristic of 
the beginnings of a working-class movement ; we have 
had quoted against us the authority of Sidney Webb, 
who has decreed that the general strike is an illusion of 
youth,2 of which the English workers — whom the mono- 
polists of sociology have so often presented to us as the 

* The nature of these articles will not allow of any long discussion 
of this subject ; but I believe that it would be possible to develop still 
further the application of Bergson's ideas to the theory of the general 
strike. Movement, in Bergson's philosophy, is looked upon as an 
undivided whole ; which leads us precisely to the catastrophic con- 
ception of Socialism. 

■ Bourdeau, Evolution du Socialisme, p. 232, 


depositaries of the true conception of the working-class 
movement — soon rid themselves. 

That the general strike is not popular in contemporary 
England, is a poor argument to bring against the historical 
significance of the idea, for the English are distinguished 
by an extraordinary lack of understanding of the class 
war ; their ideas have remained very much dominated 
by medieval influences : the guild, privileged, or at least 
protected by laws, still seems to them the ideal of work- 
ing-class organisation; it is for England that the term 
working-class aristocracy, as a name for the trades unionists, 
was invented, and, as a matter of fact, trades unionism 
does pursue the acquisition of legal privileges.^ We 
might therefore say that the aversion felt by England 
for the general strike should be looked upon as strong 
presumptive evidence in favour of the latter by all those 
who look upon the class war as the essence of Socialism. 

Moreover, Sidney Webb enjoys a reputation for 
competence which is very much exaggerated ; all that 
can be put to his credit is that he has waded through un- 
interesting blue-books, and has had the patience to compose 
an extremely indigestible compilation on the history of 
trades unionism ; he has a mind of the narrowest descrip- 
tion, which could only impress people unaccustomed to 
reflection.* Those who introduced his fame into France 
knew nothing at all about Socialism ; and if he is really 
in the first rank of contemporary authors of economic 
history, as his translator afiirms,^ it is because the 

1 This is seen, for example, in the efforts made by the trade unions 
to obtain laws absolving them from the civil responsibilities of their 

« Tarde could never understand the reputation enjoyed by Sidney 
Webb, who seemed to him to be a worthless scribbler. 

* M6tin, Le Socialisme en Angleterre, p. 210. This writer has 
received from the Government a certificate of socialism ; on July 26, 
1904, the French Commissioner-General at the St. Louis exhibition 
said : " M. Metin is animated by the best democratic spirit ; he is an 
excellent republican ; he is even a socialist whom working-class organisa- 


intellectual level of these historians is rather low ; more- 
over, many examples show us that it is possible to be a 
most illustrious professional historian and yet possess a 
mind something less than mediocre. 

Neither do I attach any importance to the objections 
made to the general strike based on considerations of a 
practical order. The attempt to construct hypotheses 
about the nature of the struggles of the future and the 
means of suppressing capitalism, on the model furnished 
by history, is a return to the old methods of the Utopists. 
There is no process by which the future can be predicted 
scientifically, nor even one which enables us to discuss 
whether one hypothesis about it is better than another ; it 
has been proved by too many memorable examples that 
the greatest men have committed prodigious errors in thus 
desiring to make predictions about even the least distant 

And yet without leaving the present, without reasoning 
about this future, which seems for ever condemned to 
escape our reason, we should be unable to act at all. 
Experience shows that the framing of a future, in some 
indeterminate time, may, when it is done in a certain way, 
be very effective, and have very few inconveniences ; this 
happens when the anticipations of the future take the 
form of those myths, which enclose with them all the 
strongest inclinations of a people, of a party or of a class, 
inclinations which recur to the mind with the insistence of 
instincts in all the circumstances of life ; and which give 
an aspect of complete reality to the hopes of immediate 
action by which, more easily than by any other method, 
men can reform their desires, passions, and mental activity. 

tion should welcome as a friend " {Association ouvrilre, July 30, 1904). 
An amusing study could be made of those persons who possess certificates 
of this kind, given to them, either by the Government, the Musie social, 
or the well-informed press. 

* The errors committed by Marx are numerous and sometimes 
enormous (cf. G. Sorel, Saggi di critica del marxismo, pp. 31-57). 


We know, moreover, that these social myths in no way 
prevent a man profiting by the observations which he 
makes in the course of his Ufe, and form no obstacle to 
the pursuit of his normal occupations.^ 

The truth of this may be shown by numerous examples. 

The first Christians expected the return of Christ and 
the total ruin of the pagan world, with the inauguration 
of the kingdom of the saints, at the end of the first genera- 
tion. The catastrophe did not come to pass, but Christian 
thought profited so greatly from the apocalyptic myth 
that certain contemporary scholars maintain that the 
whole preaching of Christ referred solely to this one point. * 
The hopes which Luther and Calvin had formed of the 
religious exaltation of Europe were by no means realised ; 
these fathers of the Reformation very soon seemed men 
of a past era ; for present-day Protestants they belong 
rather to the Middle Ages than to modem times, and the 
problems which troubled them most occupy very little 
place in contemporary Protestantism. Must we for that 
reason deny the immense result which came from their 
dreams of Christian renovation ? It must be admitted 
that the real developments of the Revolution did not in 
any way resemble the enchanting pictures which created 
the enthusiasm of its first adepts ; but without those 
pictures would the Revolution have been victorious ? 
Many Utopias were mixed up with the Revolutionary 
myth,^ because it had been formed by a society passion- 
ately fond of imaginative literature, full of confidence 
in the "science,*'* and very little acquainted with the 

* It has often been remarked that English or American sectarians 
whose religious exaltation was fed by the apocalyptic myths were often 
none the less very practical men. 

» At the present time, this doctrine occupies an important place in 
German exegesis ; it was introduced into France by the Abbe Loisy. 
» Cf. the Letter to Daniel Halevy, IV. 

* In French petite science. This expression is used to indicate the 
popular science with which the majority is much more famihar than it 


economic history of the past. These Utopias came to 
nothing ; but it may be asked whether the Revolution 
was not a much more profound transformation than those 
dreamed of by the people who in the eighteenth century 
had invented social Utopias. In our own times Mazzini 
pursued what the wiseacres of his time called a mad 
chimera ; but it can no longer be denied that, without 
Mazzini, Italy would never have become a great power, 
and that he did more for Italian unity than Cavour and 
all the politicians of his school. 

A knowledge of what the myths contain in the way 
of details which will actually form part of the history of 
the future is then of small importance ; they are not 
astrological almanacs ; it is even possible that nothing 
which they contain will ever come to pass, — as was the 
case with the catastrophe expected by the first Christians.^ 
In our own daily life, sire we not familiar with the fact 
that what actually happens is very different from our 
preconceived notion of it ? And that does not prevent 
us from continuing to make resolutions. Psychologists 
say that there is heterogeneity between the ends in view 
and the ends actually realised : the slightest experience of 
life reveals this law to us, which Spencer transferred into 
natiure, to extract therefrom his theory of the multipUca- 
tion of effects.2 

The myth must be judged as a means of acting on the 
present ; any attempt to discuss how far it can be taken 

is with the difl&cult researches of the real scientists. These latter are 
generally as modest as the writers on popular science are vain and 

1 I have tried to show elsewhere how this social myth, which has 
disappeared, was succeeded by a piety which has remained extremely 
important in Catholic life ; this evolution from the social to the in- 
dividual, seems to me quite natural in a religion {Le SysUme historique 
de Renan, pp. 374-382). 

* I beUeve, moreover, that the whole of Spencer's evolutionism is 
to be explained as an application of the most commonplace psychology 
to physics, 



literally as future history is devoid of sense. It is the 
myth in its entirety which is alone important : its parts are 
only of interest in so far as they bring out the main idea. 
No useful purpose is seived, therefore, in arguing about the 
incidents which, may occur in the course of a social war, 
and about the decisive conflicts which may give victory 
to the proletariat ; even supposing the revolutionaries 
to have been wholly and entirely deluded in setting up 
this imaginary picture of the general strike, this picture 
may yet have been, in the course of the preparation for 
the Revolution, a great element of strength, if it has 
embraced all the aspirations of SociaUsm, and if it has 
given to the whole body of Revolutionary thought a pre- 
cision and a rigidity which no other method of thought 
could have given. 

To estimate, then, the significance of the idea of the 
general strike, all the methods of discussion which are 
current among politicians, sociologists, or people with 
pretensions to poHtical science, must be abandoned. 
Everything which its opponents endeavour to estabUsh 
may be conceded to them, without reducing in any way 
the value of the theory which they think they have 
refuted. The question whether the general strike is a 
partial reahty, or only a product of popular imagina- 
tion, is of little importance. All that it is necessary to 
know is, whether the general strike contains ever5rthing 
that the Socialist doctrine expects of the revolutionary 

To solve this question we are no longer compelled to 
argue learnedly about the future ; we are not obliged 
to indulge in lofty reflections about philosophy, history, 
or economics ; we are not on the plane of theories, and 
we can remain on the level of observable facts. We have 
to question men who take a very active part in the real 
revolutionary movement amidst the proletariat, men 
who do not aspire to climb into the middle class and 


whose mind is not dominated by corporative prejudices. 
These men may be deceived about an infinite number 
of political, economical, or moral questions ; but their 
testimony is decisive, sovereign, and irrefutable when 
it is a question of knowing what are the ideas which 
most powerfully move them and their comrades, which 
most appeal to them as being identical with their socialistic 
conceptions, and thanks to which their reason, their hopes, 
and their way of looking at particular facts seem to make 
but one indivisible unity. ^ 

Thanks to these men, we know that the general strike 
is indeed what I have said : the myth in which Sociahsm 
is wholly comprised, i.e. a body of images capable of 
evoking instinctively all the sentiments which correspond 
to the different manifestations of the war undertaken 
by Socialism against modem society. Strikes have en- 
gendered in the proletariat the noblest, deepest, and most 
moving sentiments that they possess ; the general strike 
groups them all in a co-ordinated picture, and, by bringing 
them together, gives to each one of them its maximum 
of intensity ; appeaUng to their painful memories of 
particular conflicts, it colours with an intense Ufe all the 
details of the composition presented to consciousness. 
We thus obtain that intuition of Socialism which language 
cannot give us with perfect clearness — and we obtain it 
as a whole, perceived instantaneously.^ 

We may urge yet another piece of evidence to prove 
the power of the idea of the general strike. If that idea 
were a pure chimera, as is so frequently said. Parliamentary 
Socialists would not attack it with such heat ; I do not 
remember that they ever attacked the senseless hopes which 
the Utopists haye always held up before the dazzled eyes of 
the people.^ In the course of a polemic about realisable 

1 This is another application of Bergson's theories. 

' This is the " global knowledge " of Bergson's philosophy. 

* I do not remember that the official Socialists have ever shown up 


social reforms, Clemenceau brought out the MachiaveHan- 
ism in the attitude of Jaurds, when he is confronted with 
popular illusions : he shelters his conscience beneath 
" some cleverly balanced sentence," but so cleverly 
balanced that it " will be received without thinking by 
those who have the greatest need to probe into its sub- 
stance, while they will drink in with delight the delusive 
rhetoric of terrestrial joys to come " (Aurore, December 28, 
1905). But when it is a question of the general strike, 
it is quite another thing ; our poUticians are no longer 
content with complicated reservations ; they speak 
violently, and endeavour to induce their listeners to 
abandon this conception. 

It is easy to understand the reason for this attitude : 
politicians have nothing to fear from the Utopias which 
present a deceptive mirage of the future to the people, 
and turn " men towards immediate realisations of 
terrestrial felicity, which any one who looks at these 
matters scientifically knows can only be very partially 
realised, and even then only after long efEorts on the part 
of several generations . * ' (That is what Sociahst poUticians 
do, according to Clemenceau.) The more readily the 
electors beheve in the magical forces of the State, the more 
will they be disposed to vote for the candidate who 
promises marvels ; in the electoral struggle each candidate 
tries to outbid the others : in order that the Socialist 
candidates may put the Radicals to rout, the electors must 
be credulous enough to beUeve every promise of future 
bUss ; ^ our Sociahst politicians take very good care, 

fche ridiculousness of the novels of Bellamy, which have had so great 
a success. These novels needed criticism all the more, because they 
presented to the people an entirely middle-class ideal of life. They 
were a natural product of America, a country which is ignorant of the 
class war ; but in Europe, would not the theorists of the class war have 
understood them ? 

1 In the article which I have already quoted, Clemenceau recalls that 
Jaur^s made use of these outbidding tactics in a long speech which he 
made at Beziers. 


therefore, not to combat these comfortable Utopias in 
any very effective way. 

They struggle against the conception of the general 
strike, because they recognise, in the course of their pro- 
pagandist roimds, that this conception is so admirably 
adapted to the working-class mind that there is a pos- 
sibihty of its dominating the latter in the most absolute 
manner, thus leaving no place for the desires which the 
Parliamentarians are able to satisfy. They perceive that 
this idea is so effective as a motive force that once it has 
entered the minds of the people they can no longer be 
controlled by leaders, and that thus the power of the 
deputies would be reduced to nothing. In short, they 
feel in a vague way that the whole Socialist movement 
might easily be absorbed by the general strike, which 
would render useless all those compromises between 
political groups in view of which the Parhamentary 
regime has been built up. 

The opposition it meets with from official SociaHsts, 
therefore, furnishes a confirmation of our first inquiry 
into the scope of the general strike. 


We must now proceed further, and inquire whether 
the picture furnished by the general strike is really com- 
plete ; that is to say, whether it comprises all those features 
of the struggle which are recognised by modern Socialism. 
But, first of all, we must state the problem more precisely ; 
this will not be difficult if we start from the explanations 
given above on the nature of the conception. We have 
seen that the general strike must be considered as an un- 
divided whole ; consequently, no details about ways and 
means will be of the slightest help to the imderstanding 
of Socialism ; it must even be added that there is always 
a danger of losing something of this understanding, if an 


attempt is made to split up this whole into parts. We 
will now endeavour to show that there is a fundamental 
identity between the chief tenets of Marxism and the 
co-ordinated aspects furnished by the picture of the 
general strike. 

This affirmation is certain to appear paradoxical to 
many who have read the pubhcations of the most 
accredited Marxians ; gind, in fact, for a very long time a 
well-marked hostility to the general strike existed in 
Marxian circles. This tradition has done a good deal of 
harm to the progress of Marx's doctrine ; and it is in fact 
a very good illustration of the way in which, as a rule, 
disciples tend to restrict the application of their master's 
ideas. The new school has had considerable difficulty 
in Uberating itself from these influences ; it was formed 
by people who had received the Marxian imprint in a very 
marked degree ; and it was a long time before the school 
recognised that the objections brought against the general 
strike arose from the incapacity of the official representa- 
tives of Marxism rather than from the principles of the 
doctrine itself.^ 

The new school began its emancipation on the day 
when it perceived clearly that the formulas of Socialism 
were often very far from the spirit of Marx, and when it 
recommended a return to that spirit. It was not without 
a certain amount of stupefaction that it discerned that 
it had credited the master with many so-called inventions 
which were in reality taken from his predecessors, or 
which were commonplaces, even, at the time when the 
Communist Manifesto was drawn up. According to an 
author — who, in the opinion of the Government and the 

1 In an article, Introduction d la meiaphysique, published in 1903, 
Bergson points out that disciples are always inclined to exaggerate 
the points of difference between masters, and that " the master in so 
far as he formulates, develops, translates into abstract ideas what he 
brings is already in a way his own disciple." [Eng. trans, by T. E. 


Musee Social is considered to be well informed, — " the 
accumulation (of capital in the hcinds of a few individuals) 
is one of the great discoveries of Marx, one of the dis- 
coveries of whch he was most proud. ^ With all due 
deference to the historical science of this notable university 
light, this theory was one which was in everybody's 
mouth long before Marx had ever written a word, and it 
had become a dogma in the Socialist world at the end of 
the reign of Louis-Philippe. There are many Marxian 
theories of the same kind. 

A decided step towards reform was made when those 
Marxians who aspired to think for themselves began to 
study the syndicalist movement; they discovered that *'the 
genuine trade unionists have more to teach us than they 
have to learn from us." ^ This was the beginning of 
wisdom ; it was a step towards the realistic method which 
had led Marx to his real discoveries ; in this way a return 
might be made to those methods which alone merit the 
name philosophical, ** for true and fruitful ideas are so 
many close contacts with currents of reality," and they 
" owe most of their clearness to the light which the facts, 
and the applications to which they led, have by reflection 
shed on them — the clearness of a concept being scarcely 
anything more at bottom than the certainty, at last 
obtained, of manipulating the concept profitably." ^ 
And yet another profound thought of Bergson may use- 
fully be quoted : " For we do not obtain an intuition 
from reality — that is, an intellectual sympathy with the 
most intimate part of it — unless we have won its confidence 
by a long fellowship with its superficial manifestations. 
And it is not merely a question of assimilating the most 
conspicuous facts ; so immense a mass of facts must be 
acciunulated and fused together, that in this fusion all 

1 A. Metin. op. cit. p. 191. 

* G. Sorel, Avenir socialiste des syndieats, p. 12. 

» Bergson, loc. cit. 


the preconceived and premature ideas which observers 
may miwittingly have put into their observations will be 
certain to neutralize each other. In this way only can 
the bare materiality of the known facts be exposed to 
view." Finally, what Bergson calls an integral experience 
is obtained.^ 

Thanks to the new principle, people very soon came 
to recognise that the propositions which in their opinion 
contained a complete statement of Socialism were deplor- 
ably inadequate, so that they were often more dangerous 
than useful. It is the superstitious respect paid by social 
democracy to the mere text of its doctrines that nuUified 
every attempt in Germany to perfect Marxism. 

When the new school had acquired a full understanding 
of the general strike, and had thus obtained a profoimd 
intuition of the working-class movement, it saw that all 
the SociaUst theories, interpreted in the light of this 
powerful construction, took on a meaning which till then 
they had lacked ; it perceived that the clumsy and rickety 
apparatus which had been manufactured in Germany to 
explain Marx's doctrines, must be rejected if the con- 
temporary transformation of the proletarian idea was to 
be followed exactly ; it discovered that the conception of 
the general strike enabled them to explore profitably the 
whole vast domain of Marxism, which imtil then had 
remained practically unknown to the big-wigs who pro- 
fessed to be guiding Socialism. Thus the fundamental 
principles of Marxism are perfectly inteUigible only with 
the aid of the picture of the general strike, and, on the 
other hand, the full significance of this picture, it may be 
supposed, is apparent only to those who are deeply versed 
in the Marxian doctrine. 

A. First of all, I shall speak of the class war, which 
is the point of departure for all Sociahstic thought, 
and which stands in such great need of elucidation, 

» Bergson, loc. cit. 


since sophists have endeavoured to give a false idea 
of it. 

(i) Marx speaks of society as if it were divided into 
two fundamentally antagonistic groups; observation, it has 
often been urged, does not justify this division, and it is 
true that a certain efEort of will is necessary before we can 
find it verified in the phenomena of everyday life. 

The organisation of a capitalistic workshop fimiishes 
a first approximation, and piece-work plays an essential 
part in the formation of the class idea ; in fact, it throws 
into reUef the very clear opposition of interests about 
the price of commodities ; ^ the workers feel themselves 
under the thumb of the employers in the same way that 
peasants feel themselves in the power of the merchants 
and the money-lenders of the towns ; history shows that 
no economic opposition has been more clearly felt than 
the latter ; since civilisation has existed, country and 
town have formed two hostile camps.* Piece-work also 
shows that in the wage-earning world there is a group 
of men somewhat analogous to the retail shopkeepers, 
possessing the confidence of the employer, and not belong- 
ing to the proletariat class. 

The strike throws a new light on all this ; it separates 
the interests and the different ways of thinking of the 
two groups of wage-earners — the foremen clerks, engineers, 
etc., as contrasted with the workmen who alone go on 
strike — much better than the daily circumstances of life 
do ; it then becomes clear that the administrative group 
has a natural tendency to become a Httle aristocracy ; 

* I do not know whether the learned (economists and other people 
who make inquiries on social conditions) have always quite understood 
the function of piece-work. It is evident that the well-known formula, 
" the producer should be able to buy back his product," arose from 
reflections on the subject of piece-work. 

* " It may be said that the economic history of society turns on 
this antithesis," — of town and country {Capital, vol. i. p. 152, 
col. I). 


for these people. State Socialism would be advantageous, 
because they would go up one in the social hierarchy. 

But all oppositions become extraordinarily clear when 
conflicts are supposed to be enlarged to the size of the 
general strike ; then all parts of the economico-judicial 
structure, in so far as the latter is looked upon from the 
point of view of the class war, reach the smnmit of their 
perfection ; society is plainly divided into two camps, 
and only into two, on a field of battle. No philosophical 
explanation of the facts observed in practical affairs could 
throw such vivid light on the situation as the extremely 
simple picture called up by the conception of the general 

(2) It would be impossible to conceive the disappearance 
of capitalistic dominance if we did not suppose an ardent 
sentiment of revolt, always present in the soul of the 
worker ; but experience shows that very often the revolts 
of a day are far from possessing a really specifically 
socialistic character ; more than once the most violent out- 
bursts have depended on passions which could be satisfied 
inside the middle-class world ; many revolutionaries have 
been seen to abandon their old irreconcilability when they 
found themselves on the road to fortune.^ It is not only 
satisfactions of a material kind " which produce these 
frequent and scandalous conversions ; vanity, much more 
than money, is the great motive force in transformation 
of the revolutionary into a bourgeois. All that would be 
negUgible if it were only a question of a few exceptional 
people, but it has often been maintained that the psycho- 
logy of the working classes would so easily adapt itself to 
the capitalistic order of things that social peace would be 

1 It may be remembered that in the eruption at Martinique a 
governor perished who, in 1879, had been one of the protagonists of the 
Socialist congress held at Marseilles. The Commune itself was not fatal 
to all its partisans ; several have had fairly distinguished careers ; the 
ambassador of France at Rome was among the most importunate of 
those who, in 1871, demanded the death of the hostages. 


rapidly obtained if employers on their part would make 
a few sacrifices of money and amour propre. 

G. Le Bon says that the belief in the revolutionary 
instincts of crowds is a very great mistake, that their 
tendencies are conservative, that the whole power of 
Socialism lies in the rather muddled state of mind of 
the middle class ; he is convinced that the masses will 
always flock to a Caesar.^ There is a good deal of truth 
in these judgments, which are founded on a very wide 
knowledge of history, but G. Le Bon's theories must 
be corrected in one respect : they are only valid for 
societies which lack the conception of the class war. 

Observation shows that this last conception is main- 
tained with an indestructible vitality in every circle which 
has been touched by the idea of the general strike : the 
day when the slightest incidents of daily life become 
symptoms of the state of war between the classes, when 
every conflict is an incident in the social war, when every 
strike begets the perspective of a total catastrophe, on 
that day there is no longer any possibihty of social peace, 
of resignation to routine, or of enthusiasm for philan- 
thropic or successful employers. The idea of the general 
strike has such power behind it that it drags into the 
revolutionary track everything it touches. In virtue of 
this idea. Socialism remains ever young ; all attempts 
made to bring about social peace seem childish ; desertions 
of comrades into the ranks of the middle class, far from 
discouraging the masses, only excite them still more to 
rebellion ; in a word, the line of cleavage is never in danger 
of disappearing. 

(3) The successes obtained by politicians in their 
attempts to make what they call the proletarian influence 

1 G. Le Bon, Psychologie du socialisme, 3rd ed. p. in and pp. 457-459. 
The author, who a few years ago was treated as an imbecile by the little 
bullies of university Socialism, is one of the most original physicists of our 


felt in middle-class institutions, constitute a very great 
obstacle to the maintenance of the notion of class war. 
The world has always been carried on by compromises 
between opposing parties, and order has always been 
provisional. No change, however considerable, can be 
looked upon as impossible in a time Hke ours, which has 
seen so many novelties introduced in an imexpected 
manner. Modem progress has been brought about by 
successive compromises ; why not pursue the aims of 
SociaUsm by methods which have succeeded so well? 
Many means of satisfying the more pressing desires of the 
imfortunate classes can be thought of. For a long time 
these proposals for improvement were inspired by a con- 
servative, feudal, or Catholic spirit. We wish, said the 
inventors, to rescue the masses from the influence of the 
Radicals. The latter, seeing their pohtical influence 
assailed, not so much by their old enemies as by Socialist 
poHticians, invent nowadays all kinds of projects of a 
progressive, democratic, free-thinking colour. We are 
beginning at last to be threatened with socialistic com- 
promises ! 

Enough attention has not always been paid to the fact 
that many kinds of political, administrative, and financial 
systems engender and support the domination of a middle 
class.^ We must not always attach too much importance 
to violent attacks on the middle class ; they may have 
behind them the desire to reform and perfect capitalism.* 
There are, it seems, quite a number of people about now- 
adays who, though not in the least desiring the disappear- 

* The Socialists are mistaken in believing that the existence 
of a middle class is bound up with the existence of the capitalist 
industrial system. Any country submitted to a bureaucracy, directing 
production — either directly or through corporations — would have a 
middle class. 

» I know, for instance, a very enlightened CathoUc, who gives vent 
with singular acrimony to his contempt for the French middle class ; 
but his ideal is Americanism, i.e. a very young and very active capital' 
istic society. 


ance of the capitalistic regime, would willingly abolish 
inheritance like the followers of Saint Simon.* 

The idea of the general strike destroys all the theoretical 
consequences of every possible social policy ; its partisans 
look upon even the most' popular reforms as having a 
middle-class character ; so far as they are concerned, 
nothing can weaken the fundamental opposition of the 
class war. The more the policy of social reforms becomes 
preponderant, the more will Sociahsts feel the need of 
placing against the picture of the progress which it is the 
aim of this policy to bring about, this other picture of 
complete catastrophe furnished so perfectly by the general 

B. Let us now examine, with the aid of the conception 
of the general strike, certain very essential aspects of the 
Marxian Revolution. 

(i) Marx says that on the day of the Revolution the 
proletariat will be discipUned, imited, and organised by 
the very mechanism of production. This exceedingly 
concentrated formula would not be very intelligible if we 
did not read it in connection with its context ; according 
to Marx, the working class is bowed beneath a system 
in which '* abject poverty, oppression, slavery, degrada- 
tion, and exploitation increase," and against which it is 
organising an ever-increasing resistance until the day when 
the whole social structure breaks up.^ The accuracy of 
this description has been many times disputed ; it seems 
indeed to be more suited to the Manifesto period (1847) 
than to the time when Capital was published (1867) ; but 
this objection must not stop us, and it may be thrust on 

* p. de Rousiers was very much struck by the way rich fathers in 
the United States forced their sons to earn their own living ; he often 
met " Frenchmen who were profoundly shocked by what they called 
the egoism of American fathers. It seemed revolting to them that a 
rich man should leave his son to earn his own living, that he did nothing 
to set him up in life" {La Vie am^ricaine, V Education et la sociiti, p. 9). 

• Capital, vol. i. p. 342, col. i. 


one side by means of the theory of m5rths. The different 
terms which Marx uses to describe the preparation for the 
decisive combat are not to be taken Hterally as statements 
of fact about a determined future ; it is the description 
in its entirety which should engage our attention, and 
taken in this way it is perfectly clear : Marx wishes us to 
understand that the whole preparation of the proletariat 
depends solely on the organisation of a stubborn, increas- 
ing, and passionate resistance to the present order of 

This argument is of supreme importance if we are 
to have a sound conception of Marxism ; but it is often 
contested, if not in theory, at least in practice ; the 
proletariat, it has been held, sh9uld prepare for the part 
it is to play in the future by other ways than those of 
revolutionary Syndicalism. Thus the exponents of co- 
operation hold that a prominent place in the work of 
enfranchisement must be given to their own particular 
remedy ; the democrats say that it is essential to aboUsh 
all the prejudices arising from the old CathoUc influence, 
etc. Many revolutionaries believe that, however useful 
S5mdicaUsm may be, it is not, in itself, sufficient to organise 
a society which needs a new philosophy, a new code of 
laws, etc. ; as the division of labour is a fimdamental law 
of the world, SociaUsts should not be ashamed to apply to 
specialists in philosophy and law, of whom there is never 
any lack. Jaur^ never stops repeating this kind of stuff. 
This expansion of Socialism is contrary to the Marxian 
theory, as also to the conception of the general strike ; 
but it is evident that the conception of the general strike 
makes a much more striking appeal to the mind than any 

(2) I have already called attention to the danger for 
the future of civilisation presented by revolutions which 
take pla^e in a period of economic decadence ; many 
Marxists do not seem to have formed a clear idea of Marx's 


thought on this subject. The latter believed that the 
great catastrophe would be preceded by an enormous 
economic crisis, but the crisis Marx had in mind must not 
be confused with an economic decadence ; crises appeared 
to him as the result of a too risky venture on the part of 
production, which creates productive forces out of pro- 
portion to the means of regulation. which the capitaUstic 
system automatically brings into play. Such a venture 
supposes that the future was looked upon as favourable 
to very large enterprises, and that the conception of 
economic progress prevailed absolutely at the time. In 
order that the lower middle classes, who are still able to 
find tolerable conditions of existence imder the capitalist 
regime, may join hands with the proletariat, it is essential 
that they shall be able to picture the future of production 
as bright with hope, just as the conquest of America 
formerly appeared to the EngUsh peasants, who left 
Europe to throw themselves into a life of adventure* 

The general strike leads to the same conclusions. The 
workers are accustomed to seeing their revolts against 
the restrictions imposed by capitalism succeed during 
periods of prosperity ; so that it may be said that if you 
once identify revolution and general strike it then becomes 
impossible to conceive this of an essential transformation 
of the world taking place in a time of economic decadence. 
The workers are equally well aware that the peaisants and 
the artisans will not join hands with them unless the 
future appears so rosy-coloured that industriaUsm will be 
able to ameliorate the lot not only of the producers, but 
that of everybody.^ 

It is very important always to lay stress on the high 

* It is not difficult to see that propagandists are obliged to refer 
frequently to this aspect of the social revolution : this wiU take place 
while the intermediary classes are still in existence, but when they 
become sickened by the farce of social pacification, and when a period 
of such great economic progress has been reached that the future will 
appeau: in colours favourable to everybody. 


degree of prosperity which industry must possess in order 
that the reaUsation of Socialism may be possible ; for ex- 
perience shows us that it is by seeking to stop the progress 
of capitalism, and to preserve the means of existence of 
classes who are on the down-grade, that the prophets of 
social peace chiefly endeavour to capture popular favour. 
The dependence of the revolution on the constant and 
rapid progress of industry must be demonstrated in a 
striking manner.^ 

(3) Too great stress cannot be laid on the fact that 
Marxism condemns every hypothesis about the future 
manufactured by the Utopists. Professor Brentano of 
Munich relates that in 1869 Marx wrote to his friend 
Beesly (who had pubhshed an article on the future of the 
working class) to say that up till then he had looked upon 
him as the sole revolutionary Enghshman, and that hence- 
forth he looked upon him as a reactionary — for, he said, 
" the man who draws up a programme for the future is a 
reactionary/' ^ He considered that the proletariat had 
no need to take lessons from the learned inventors of 
solutions to social problems, but simply to take up pro- 
duction where capitahsm left it. There was no need for 
programmes of the future ; the programmes were already 
worked out in the workshops. The idea of a techno- 
logical continuity dominates the whole of the Marxian 

* Kautsky has often dwelt on this idea, of which Engels was particu- 
larly fond. 

* Bernstein said about this story that Brentano might have exag- 
gerated a little, but that " the phrase quoted by him was not incon- 
sistent with Marx's general line of thought " (Mouvement socialiste, 
September i, 1899, p. 270). Of what can Utopias be composed ? Of 
the past and often of a very far-ofi past ; it is probably for this reason 
that Marx called Beesly a reactionary, while everybody else was 
astonished at his revolutionary boldness. The Catholics are not the 
only people who are hypnotised by the Middle Ages, and Yves Guyot 
pokes fun at the collectivist troubadourism of Lafargue (Lafargue and 
Y. Guyot, La Propriiti, pp. 121-122). 


Experience gained in strikes leads us to a conception 
identical with that of Marx. Workmen who put down 
their tools do not go to their employers with schemes for 
the better organisation of labour, and do not offer them 
assistance in the management of their business ; in short, 
Utopias have no place in economic conflicts. Jaur^ and 
his friends are well aware that this is a very strong argu- 
ment against their own ideas of the way in which SociaUsm 
is to be realised : they would like even now to have 
fragments of the industrial programmes manufactured 
by learned sociologists and accepted by the workers 
introduced into strike negotiations ; they would like to 
see the creation of what they call industrial parliamentarism 
which, exactly as in the case of political parhamentarism 
would imply, on the one hand, the masses who are led 
and, on the other, demagogues to show them the way. 
This would be the apprentice stage of their sham SociaHsm, 
and might begin at once. 

With the general strike all these fine things disappear ; 
the revolution appears as a revolt, pure and simple, and 
no place is reserved for sociologists, for fashionable people 
who are in favour of social reforms, and for the Intellectuals 
who have embraced the profession of thinking for the 

Cs Socialism has always inspired terror because of the 
enormous element of the unknown which it contains ; 
people feel that a transformation of this kind would permit 
of no turning back. Utopists have used all their literary 
art in the endeavour to lull anxiety by pictures of tlie 
future, so enchanting that fear might be banished ; but 
the more they accumulated fine promises, the more did 
thoughtful people suspect traps, and in this they were 
not altogether mistaken, for the Utopists would have led 
the world to disasters, tyranny, and stupidity, if they had 
been hearkened to. 

Mairx was firmly convinced that the social revolution 



of which he spoke would constitute an irrevocable trans- 
formation, and that it would mark an absolute separation 
between two historical eras ; he often returned to this 
idea, and Engels has endeavoured to show, by means of 
images which were sometimes a httle grandiose, how 
economic enfranchisement would be the point of departure 
of an era having no relationship with the past. Rejecting 
all Utopias, these two foimders of modem Socialism 
renounced all the resources by which their predecessors 
had rendered the prospect of a great revolution less 
formidable ; but however strong the expressions which 
they employed might have been, the effects which they 
produced are still very inferior to those produced by the 
evocation of the general strike. This conception makes 
it impossible for us to ignore the fact that a kind of 
irresistible wave will pass over the old civihsation. 

There is something really terrifying in all this ; but I 
believe that it is very essential that this feature of Socialism 
should be insisted on if the latter is to have its full educa- 
tional value. Socialists must be convinced that the work 
to which they are devoting themselves is a serious, 
formidable, and sublime work ; it is only on this condition 
that they will be able to bear the innimierable sacrifices 
imposed on them by a propaganda, which can procure 
them neither honours, profits, nor even immediate 
intellectual satisfaction. Even if the only result of the 
idea of the general strike was to make the SociaUst con- 
ception more heroic, it should on that account alone be 
looked upon as having an incalculable value. 

The resemblances which I have just established 
between Marxism and the general strike might be carried 
still further and deeper ; if they have been overlooked 
hitherto, it is because we are much more struck by the 
form of things than by their content ; a large number of 
people find great difficulty in believing that there can be 
any parallehsm between a philosophy based on Hegelian- 


ism and the constructions made by men entirely devoid 
of higher culture. Marx had acquired in Germany a taste 
for very condensed formulas, and these formulas were so 
admirably suited to the conditions in the midst of which 
he worked that he naturally made great use of them. 
When he wrote, there had been none of the great and 
numerous strikes which would have enabled him to speak 
with a detailed knowledge of the means by which the 
proletariat may prepare itself for the revolution. This 
absence of knowledge gained from experience very much 
hampered Marx's thought ; he avoided the use of too 
precise formulas which would have had this inconvenience 
of giving a kind of sanction to existing institutions, which 
seemed valueless to him ; he was therefore happy to be 
able to find in German academic writing a habit of abstract 
language which allowed him to avoid all discussion of 

No better proof perhaps can be given of Marx's genius 
than the remarkable agreement which is found to exist 
between his views and the doctrine which revolutionary 
Syndicalism is to-day building up slowly and laboriously, 
keeping always strictly to strike tactics. 


For some time yet, the conception of the general strike 
will have considerable difficulty in becoming acchmatised 
in circles which are not specially dominated by strike 
tactics. I think it might be useful at this point to enquire 

^ I have elsewhere put forward the hypothesis that Marx, in the 
penultimate chapter of the first volume of Capital perhaps wished to 
demonstrate the difference between the evolution of the proletariat 
and that of middle-class force. He said that the working class is 
disciplined, united and organised by the very mechanism of capitalist 
production. There is perhaps an indication of a movement towards 
liberty, opposed to the movement towards automatism which will be 
discussed later when we come to consider middle-class force {Saggi di 
criiica. pp. 46-47). 


into the motives which explain the repugnance felt by 
many intelligent and sincere people who are disturbed 
by the novelty of the Syndicalist point of view. All the 
members of the new school know that they had to make 
great efforts in order to overcome the prejudices of their 
upbringing, to set aside the associations of ideas which 
sprang up spontaneously in their mind, and to reason 
along lines which in no way corresponded to those which 
they had been taught. 

During the nineteenth century there existed an in- 
credible scientific ingenuousness which was the direct out- 
come of the illusions that had aroused so much excitement 
towards the end of the eighteenth century. ^ Because 
astronomers had managed to calculate the tables of the 
moon, it was believed that the aim of all science was to 
forecast the future with accuracy ; because Le Verrier 
had been able to indicate the probable position of the 
planet Neptime — which had never been seen, and which 
accounted for the disturbances of observable planets — 
it was believed that science could remedy the defects of 
society, and indicate what measures should be taken to 
bring about the disappearance of the impleasant things 
in the world. It may be said that this was the middle- 
class conception of science : it certainly corresponds very 
closely to the mental attitude of those capitahsts, who, 
ignorant of the perfected appliances of their workshops, 
yet direct industry, and always find ingenious inventors 
to get them out of their difficulties. For the middle class 
science is a mill which produces solutions to all the 
problems we are faced with : ^ science is no longer con- 

1 The history of scientific superstitions is of the deepest interest to 
philosophers who wish to understand Socialism. These superstitions 
have remained dear to our democracy, as they had been dear to the 
beaux esprits of the Old Regime ; I have touched on a few of the aspects 
of this history in Les Illusions du progris. Engels was often under the 
influence of these errors, from which Marx himself was not always free. 

• Marx quotes this curious phrase from Ure, written about 1830 : 
" This invention supports the doctrine already developed by us : if 


sidered as a perfected means to knowledge, but only as a 
recipe for procuring certain advantages.^ 

I have said that Marx rejected all attempts to determine 
the conditions of a future society ; too much stress cannot 
be laid on this point, for it shows that he took his stand 
outside middle-class science. The doctrine of the general 
strike also repudiates this science, and many professors 
consequently accuse the new school of having negative 
ideas only ; their own aim, on the other hand, is the noble 
one of constructing universal happiness. The leaders of 
social democracy, it seems to me, have not been very 
Marxian on this point ; a few years ago, Kautsky wrote 
a preface to a somewhat burlesque Utopia.^ 

I believe that among the motives which led Bernstein 
to part from his old friends must be counted the horror 
which he felt for their Utopias. If Bernstein had lived 
in France and had known our revolutionary Syndicalism, 
he would soon have perceived that the latter was on the 
true Marxian track ; but neither in England nor in 
Germany did he find a working-class movement which 
could guide him ; wishing to remain attached to realities, 
as Marx had been, he thought that it was better to carry 
on a policy of social reform, pursuing practical ends, than 
to lull himself to sleep to the soimd of fine phrases about 
the happiness of future himianity. 

The worshippers of this useless pseudo science did not 
allow themselves to be stopped by the objection, legitimate 
in this case, that their methods of calculation were entirely 
inadequate of their means of determination. Their con- 
ception of science, being derived from astronomy, supposes 

capital enlists the aid of science, the rebel hand of labour always learns 
how to be tractable " {Capital, Eng. trans., vol. i. p. 188, col. 2). 

* To use the language of the new school, science was considered from 
the point of view of the consumer and not from the point of view of the 

* Atlanticus, Ein Blick in den Zukunftsstaat. E. Seilli^re reviewed 
this book in the DSbats of August 16, 1899. 


that everything can be expressed by some mathematical 
law. Evidently there are no laws of this kind in sociology ; 
but man is always susceptible to analogies connected with 
the forms of expression : it was thought that a high degree 
of perfection had been attained, and that already some- 
thing had been accomplished for science when — starting 
from a few principles not offensive to common sense, 
which seem confirmed by a few common experiences — it 
had been found possible to present a doctrine in a simple, 
clear, and deductive manner. This so-called science is 
simply chatter.^ 

The Utopists excelled in the art of exposition in 
accordance with these prejudices ; the more their exposi- 
tion satisfied the requirements of a school book, the more 
convincing they thought their inventions were. I believe 
that the contrary of this belief is the truth, and that we 
should distrust proposals for social reform all the more, 
when every difficulty seems solved in an apparently satis- 
factory manner. 

I should like to examine here, very briefly, a few of the 
illusions which have arisen out of what may be called the 
little science?' which beUeves that when it has attained 

* " It has not been enough noticed how feeble is the reach of deduc- 
tion in the psychological and moral sciences. . . . Very soon appeal 
has to be made to common sense, that is to say, to the continuous ex- 
perience of the real, in order to inflect the consequences deduced and 
bend them along the sinuosities of life. Deduction succeeds in things 
moral only metaphorically so to speak " (Bergson, Creative Evolution, 
p. 224). Newman had already written something similar to this, 
but in more precise terms : " Thus it is that the logician for his own 
purposes, and most usefully as far as these purposes are concerned, 
turns rivers, full, winding and beautiful, into navigable canals. . . . His 
business is not to ascertain facts in the concrete but to find and dress 
up middle terms ; and, provided they and the extremes which they go 
between are not equivocal, either in themselves or in their use. Sup- 
posing he can enable his pupils to show well in a viva voce disputation, 
... he has achieved the main purpose of his profession " {Grammar of 
Assent, pp. 261-262). There is no weakness in this denunciation of 
small talk. 

* See note, p. 66. 


clarity of exposition that it has attained truth. This 
little science has contributed a great deal towards creating 
the crisis in Marxism, and every day we hear the new 
school accused of delighting in the obscurities of which 
Marx has so often been accused, while French Sociahsts 
and Belgian Sociologists, on the contrary, . . . ! 

Perhaps the best way of giving an accurate idea of the 
error committed by these sham scientists against whom 
the new school is waging war will be to examine the general 
characteristics of some social phenomena, and to run 
through some of the achievements of the mind, beginning 
with the highest. 

A. (i) The positivists, who represent, in an eminent 
degree, mediocrity, pride, and pedantry, had decreed that 
philosophy was to give way before their science ; but 
philosophy is not dead, and it has acquired a new and 
vigorous lease of life thanks to Bergson, who far from 
wishing to reduce everything to science, has claimed for 
the philosopher the right to proceed in a manner quite 
opposed to that employed by the scientist. It might be 
said that metaphysics has reclaimed the lost ground by 
demonstrating to man the illusion of so-called scientific 
solutions, and by bringing the mind back to the mysterious 
region which the little science abhors. Positivism is still 
admired by a few Belgians, the employees of the Office 
du Travail,^ and General Andr6 ; ^ but these are people 
who count for very little in the world of thought. 

(2) Religions do not seem to be on the point of dis- 
appearing. Liberal Protestantism is dying because it 

1 This is the ofl&ce of the Minister for Labour, and is principally 
occupied with the Syndicates. It gives itself a certain socialistic air 
in the hope of duping the workmen. 

* A few years ago, this illustrious warrior (?) was instrumental in 
blocking the candidature for the Collige de France of Paul Tennery 
(whose erudition was universally recognised in Europe) in favour of 
a positivist. The positivists constitute a lay congregation which is 
ready for any dirty work. 


attempted, at all costs, to give a perfectly rationalistic ex- 
position of Christian theology. Auguste Comte manufac- 
tured a caricature of Catholicism, in which he had retained 
only the administrative, hierarchical, and disciplinary 
machinery of that Church; his attempt obtained success 
only with those people who like to laugh at the simpHcity 
of their dupes. In the course of the nineteenth century, 
CathoUcism recovered strength to an extraordinary degree 
because it would abandon nothing ; it even strengthened 
its mysteries, and, what is very curious, it gains ground 
in cultivated circles >^ere the rationaHsm which was 
formerly in fashion at the University is scoffed at.^ 

(3) The old claim made by our fathers that they had 
created a science of art or even that they could describe 
a work of art in so adequate a manner that the reader 
could obtain from a book an exact aesthetic appreciation 
of a picture or of a statue, we look upon nowadays as 
a perfect example of pedantry. Taine's efforts in the 
direction first mentioned are very interesting, but only as 
regards the history of the various schools. His method 
gives us no useful information about the works themselves. 
As for the descriptions, they are only of value if the works 
themselves are of small aesthetic value, and if they belong 
to what is sometimes called literary painting. The poorest 
photograph of the Parthenon conveys a hundred times as 
much information as a volume devoted to the praise of the 
marvels of this monument ; it seems to me that the famous 
Frilre sur I'Acropole, so often praised as one of the finest 
passages in Renan, is a rather remarkable example of 
rhetoric, and that it is much more likely to render Greek 
art unintelligible to us than to make us admire the 
Parthenon. Despite all his enthusiasm for Diderot 

* Pascal protested eloquently against those who considered obscurity 
an objection against Catholicism, and Bruneti^re was right in looking 
upon him as being one of the most anticartesian of the men of his time 
{Etudes critiques, 4« s6rie, pp. 144-149). 


(which is sometimes comical and expressed nonsensically), 
Joseph Reinach is obliged to acknowledge that his hero 
was lacking in artistic feeling in his famous Salons, because 
Diderot appreciated most of all those pictures which 
offered possibihties of literary dissertation,^ and Bruneti^re 
could say that Diderot's Salons were the corruption of 
criticism, because he discussed works of art in them as if 
they were books.* 

The impotence of speech is due to the fact that art 
flourishes best on mystery, half shades and indeterminate 
outlines ; the more speech is methodical and perfect, the 
more likely is it to eliminate everything that distinguishes 
a masterpiece ; it reduces the masterpiece to the pro- 
portions of an academic product. 

As a result of this preliminary examination of the three 
highest achievements of the mind, we are led to beUeve 
that it is possible to distinguish in every complex body of 
knowledge a clear and an obscure region, and to say that 
the latter is perhaps the more important. The mistake 
made by superficial people consists in the statement that 
this second part must disappear with the progress of 
enlightenment, and that eventually everything will be 
explained rationally in terms of the little science. This 
error is particularly revolting as regards art, and, above 
all, perhaps, as regards modem painting, which seeks 
more and more to render combinations of shades to which 
no attention was formerly paid on account of their lack of 
stabiUty and of the difficulty of rendering them by speech.* 

B. (i) In ethics, the part that can be expressed easily, 

1 J. ReinsLch,9Diderot, pp. 116-117, 125-127, 131-132. 

« Bruneti^re, Evolution des genres, p. 122. Elsewhere he calls 
Diderot a philistine, p. 153. 

» It is to the credit of the impressionists that they showed that these 
fine shades can be rendered by painting ; but some few among them 
soon began to paint according to the formulas of a school, and then 
there appeared a scandalous contrast between their works and their 
avowed aims. 


in clearly reasoned expositions, is that which has reference 
to the equitable relations between men ; it contains 
maxims which are to be found in many different civilisa- 
tions ; consequently it was for a long time believed that 
a resume of these precepts might form the basis of a natural 
morality appHcable to the whole of humanity. The 
obscure part of morality is that which has reference to 
sexual relationships, and this part is not easily expressed 
in formulas ; to imderstand it thoroughly you must have 
lived in a country for a great number of years. It is, more- 
over, the fundamental part ; when it is known the whole 
psychology of a people is understood ; the supposed 
uniformity of the first system in reaUty then conceals 
many differences ; almost identical maxims may corre- 
spond to very different appUcations ; their clearness was 
only a delusion. 

(2) In legislation, everybody sees immediately that 
the law regulating contracts and debts constitutes the 
obvious part, that which is called scientific ; here again 
there is great uniformity in the rules adopted by different 
peoples, and it was believed that it was eminently desirable 
to draw up a common code founded on a rational revision 
of those which existed, but in practice it is again foimd 
that, in different countries, the courts generally attach 
different meanings to these supposed common principles ; 
that is because there is something individual and particular 
in each maxim. 

The mysterious region is the family, which influences 
all social relationships. Le Play was very much struck 
by an opinion of Tocqueville on this subject : "I am 
astonished," said this great thinker, "that ancient and 
modem publicists have not attributed a greater influence 
on the progress of human affairs to the laws of inherit- 
ance. These laws, it is true, refer to civil private affairs, 
but they should be placed at the head of all political 
institutions, for they have an incredible influence on the 


social state of peoples, of which state the pohtical laws 
are only the expression/' ^ This remark governed all the 
researches of Le Play. 

This division of legislation into a clear and an obscure 
region has one curious consequence : it is very rare for 
people who are not members of the legal professions 
to undertake any discussion of equity ; they know that 
it is necessary to have an intimate knowledge of 
certain rules of law, in order to be able to argue about 
these questions : an outsider would run the risk of 
making himself ridiculous if he were to venture on an 
opinion ; but on the question of divorce, of paternal 
authority, of inheritance, every man of letters beheves 
himself as learned as the cleverest lawyer, because in this 
obscure region there are no well-defined principles, nor 
regular deductions. 

(3) In economics, the same distinction is, perhaps, still 
more evident ; questions relative to exchange can be 
easily expounded ; the methods of exchange are very 
much aUke in the different countries, and it is hardly 
Ukely that any very violent paradoxes will be made about 
monetary circulation. On the other hand, everything 
relative to production presents a complexity which is 
sometimes inextricable ; it is in production that locsd 
traditions are most strongly maintained ; ridiculous 
Utopias regarding production may be invented indefinitely 
without revolting the common sense of readers. Nobody 
denies that production is the fimdamental part of any 
economic system ; this is a truth which plays a great 
part in Mcirxism, and which has been acknowledged even 
by authors who have been unable to imderstand its 

1 Tocqueville, Dimocratie en Amirique, tome i. chap. iii. Le Play, 
Reforme sociale en France, chap. xvii. 4. 

* In my Introduction d I'economie moderne I have shown how this 
distinction may be used to throw light on many questions which had 


C. Let us now examine how Parliamentary assemblies 
work. For a long time it was believed that their principal 
function was that of arguing out the most important 
questions of social organisation, and, above all, those 
relating to the constitution. In such matters it is possible 
to proceed from first principles by way of deduction to 
clear and concise conclusions. Our forefathers excelled 
in this scholastic type of argument, which forms the 
luminous part of political discussions. Now that the 
question of the constitution is scarcely ever discussed, 
certain great laws still give rise to fine oratorical tourna- 
ments ; thus on the question of the separation of the 
Chruch and the State, the professional expounders of first 
principles were heard and even applauded ; it was the 
opinion of all that the debates had rarely reached so high 
a level, and this was because the question was one that 
lent itself to academic discussion. But when, as more 
frequently happens, commercial laws or social measures 
are discussed, then we see the stupidity of our representa- 
tives displayed in all its splendour ; ministers, presidents, 
or rapporteurs de commissions} speciaHsts, vie with each 
other in displays of stupidity ; the reason for this is that 
we are now dealing with economic questions, and the mind 
is no longer guided by simple rules ; in order to be able 
to give an opinion worthy of consideration on these 
questions, one must have had a practical acquaintance 
with them, and our honourable members cannot be said 
to possess this kind of knowledge. Among them may be 
found many representatives of the litUe science ; on 
July 5, 1905, a well-known speciaHst in venereal diseases * 

till then remained exceedingly obscure, and notably to show the exact 
value of certain important arguments used by Proudhon. 

1 [Laws in France are discussed by a committee elected by the 
Chamber ; they alter the text of the law, and it is the duty of the rap- 
porteur, named by the committee, to defend the amended text in open 
discussion in the Chamber. — Trans. Note.] 

* Doctor Augagneur was for a long time one of the glories of that 


declared that he had not studied political economy, having 
" a certain mistrust for that conjectural science." We 
must doubtless understand from this that it is more 
difficult to argue about production than it is to diagnose 

The little science has engendered a fabulous number of 
sophistries which we continually come across, and which 
go down very well with the people who possess the stupid 
and mediocre culture distributed by the University. 
These sophistries consist in putting very different things 
on the same plane from a love of logical simplicity ; thus 
sexual morality is reduced to the equitable relations 
between contracting parties, the family code to that 
regulating debts and agreements, and production to 

Because, in nearly every country and in every age, 
the State has undertaken to regulate circulation, both 
of money and of banknotes, or has laid down a legal 
system of measures, it does not by any means follow that 
there would be the same advantage in entrusting to the 
State, for mere love of imiformity, the management of 
great enterprises : yet this argument is one of those which 
appeal most strongly to many medical students and 
nurslings of the School of Law. I am convinced that 
Jaur^s'is even now imable to understand why industry 
has been abandoned by lazy legislators to the anarchical 
tendencies of egotists ; if production is really the base of 
ever5rthing, as Marx says, it is criminal not to place it in 
the front rank, not to subject it to a great legislative 
action, conceived on the same lines as those parts of 
legislation which owe their clearness to their abstract 
character, ix. not to order and arrange it so that it rests 

class of Intellectuals who looked upon Socialism as a variety of Drey- 
fusism ; his great protests in favour of Justice have brought him to 
the governorship of Madagascar, which proves that virtue is sometimes 

j64 reflections ON VIOLENCE 

on great principles analogous to those which are brought 
forward when constitutional laws are discussed. 

Sociahsm is necessarily very obscure, since it deals 
with production, i.e, with the most mysterious part of 
human activity, and since it proposes to bring about a 
radical transformation of that region which it is impossible 
to describe with the clearness that is to be found in more 
superficial regions. No effort of thought, no progress of 
knowledge, no rational induction will ever dispel the 
mystery which envelops Sociahsm ; and it is because the 
philosophy of Marx recognised fully this feature of Socialism 
that it acquired the right to serve as the starting-point 
of Socialist inquiry. 

But we must hasten to add that this obscurity lies only 
in the language by which we endeavour to describe the 
methods of realising Sociahsm ; this obscurity may be 
said to be scholastic only ; it does not in the least prevent 
us picturing the proletarian movement in a way that is 
exact, complete, and striking, and this may be achieved by 
the aid of that powerful construction which the proletarian 
mind has conceived in the course of social conflicts, and 
which is called the " general strike." It must never be 
forgotten that the perfection of this method of representa- 
tion would vanish in a moment if any attempt were made 
to resolve the general strike into a sum of historical 
details ; the general strike must he taken as a whole and 
undivided, and the passage from capitalism to Socialism 
conceived as a catastrophe, the development of which baffles 

The professors of the little science are really difficult 
to satisfy. They assert very loudly that they will only 
admit into thought abstractions analogous to those used 
in the deductive sciences : as a matter of fact, this is a rule 
which is insufficient for purposes of action, for we do 
nothing great without the help of warmly-coloured and 
clearly-defined images, which absorb the whole of oiu* 


attention ; now, is it possible to find anything more 
satisfying from their point of view than the general strike ? 
But, reply the professors, we ought to rely only on those 
reaUties which are given by experience : is, then, the picture 
of the general strike made up of tendencies which were not 
obtained directly from observation of the revolutionary 
movement ? Is it a work of pure reason, manufactured 
by indoor scientists attempting to solve the social problem 
according to the rules of logic ? Is it something arbitrary ? 
Is it not, on the contrary, a spontaneous product analogous 
to those others which students of history come across in 
periods of action ? They insist, and say that man ought 
not to let himself be carried away by his impulses without 
submitting them to the control of his inteUigence, whose 
rights are unchallenged ; nobody dreams of disputing 
them ; of course, this picture of the general strike must be 
tested, and that is what I have tried to do above ; but 
the critical spirit does not consist in replacing historical 
data by the charlatanism of a sham science. 

If it is desired to criticise the basis of the idea of the 
general strike, the attack must be directed against the 
revolutionary tendencies which it groups together, and 
shows as in action ; by no other method worthy of 
attention can you hope to prove to the revolutionaries 
that they are wrong in giving all their energies to the cause 
of Socialism, and that their real interests would be better 
served if they were politicians ; they have known this 
for a long time, and their choice is made ; as they do not 
take up a utilitarian standpoint, any advice which you 
may give will be in vain. 

We are perfectly well aware that the historians of the 
futiue are bound to discover that we laboiu"ed under many 
illusions, because they will see behind them a finished 
world. We, on the other hand, must act, and nobody 
can tell us to-day what these historians will know ; 


nobody can furnish us with the means of modifying our 
motor images in such a way as to avoid their criticisms. 

Our situation resembles somewhat that of the physicists 
who work at huge calculations based on theories which 
are not destined to endure for ever. We have nowadays 
abandoned all hope of discovering a complete science of 
nature ; the spectacle of modem scientific revolutions is 
not encouraging for scientists, and has no doubt led many 
people, naturally enough, to proclaim the bankruptcy of 
science, and yet we should be mad if we handed the 
management of industry over to sorcerers, mediums, and 
wonder-workers. The philosopher who does not seek to 
make a practical application of his theories may take up 
the point of view of the future historian of science, and 
then dispute the absolute character of present-day 
scientific theses ; but he is as ignorant as the present-day 
physicist when he is asked how to correct the explanations 
given by the latter ; must he therefore take refuge in 
scepticism ? 

Nowadays no philosophers worthy of consideration 
accept the sceptical position ; their great aim, on the 
contrary, is to prove the legitimacy of a science which, 
however, makes no claim to know the real nature of things, 
and which confines itself to discovering relations which 
can be utilised for practical ends. It is because sociology 
is in the hands of people who are incapable of any philo- 
sophic reasoning that it is possible for us to be attacked 
(in the name of the little science) for being content with 
methods founded on the laws that a really thorough 
psychological analysis reveals as fundamental in the 
genesis of action, and which are revealed to us in all great 
historical movements. 

To proceed scientifically means, first of all, to know 
what forces exist in the world, and then to take measures 
whereby we may utilise them, by reasoning from experience. 
That is why I say that, by accepting the idea of the general 


strike, although we know that it is a mjrth, we are pro- 
ceeding exactly as a modem physicist does who has 
complete confidence in his science, although he knows 
that the future will look upon it as antiquated. It is we 
who really possess the scientific spirit, while our critics 
have lost touch both with modem science and modem 
philosophy ; and having proved this, we are quite easy 
in our minds. 



I. Use made of the syndicates by politicians — Pressure on Parlia- 
ments — The general strike in Belgium and Russia. 

II. Differences in the two currents of ideas corresponding to the 
two conceptions of the general strike : class war ; the State ; 
the aristocracy of thought. 

III. Jealousy fostered by politicians — War as a source of heroism 

and as pillage — Dictatorship of the proletariat and its 
historical antecedents. 

IV. Force and Violence — Marx's ideas about force — Necessity of a 

new theory in the case of proletarian violence. 

Politicians are people whose wits are singularly sharpened 
by their voracious appetites, and in whom the himt for 
fat jobs develops the cunning of Apaches. They hold 
purely proletarian organisations in horror, and discredit 
them as much as they can ; frequently they even deny 
their efficacity, in the hope of alienating the workers from 
groups which, they say, have no future. But when they 
perceive that their hatred is powerless, that their abuse 
does not hinder the working of these detested organisa- 
tions, and that these have become strong, then they 
seek to turn to their own profit the forces which the pro- 
letariat has created. 

The co-operative societies were for a long time 
denoimced as useless to the workers ; since they have 



prospered, more than one politician has cast languishing 
eyes on their cash-box, and would like to see the party 
supported by the income from the bakery and the grocery, 
as the Israelite consistories in many countries live on 
the dues from the Jewish butchers.^ 

The syndicates may be very useful in electoral pro- 
paganda ; a certain amount of skill is needed to utihse 
them profitably, but politicians do not lack lightness of 
finger. Gu^rard, the secretary of the railway syndicate, 
was once one of the most ardent revolutionaries in France ; 
in the end, however, it was borne in upon him that it was 
easier to play with poUtics than to prepare for the general 
strike; 2 he is to-day one of those men in whom the 
Direction du Travail has most confidence, and in 1902 
he went to a great deal of trouble in order to secure the 
return of Millerand to Parliament. There is a very large 
railway station in the constituency which the Socialist 
minister sought to represent, and, without the support of 
Gu^rard, Millerand would probably have been defeated. 
In the Socialiste of September 14, 1902, a Guesdist 
denounced this conduct, which seemed to him doubly 

1 In Algeria the scandals in the administration of the consistories 
(the administrative councils of the Jewish community), which had 
become sinks of electoral corruption, compelled the Government to 
reform them ; but the recent law respecting the separation of the 
Churches and the State will probably bring about a return to the old 

* An attempt to organise a railway strike was made in 1898 ; Joseph 
Reinach says this about it : "A very shady individual, Gu6rard, who 
had founded an association of railway workers and employees which 
had a membership of 20,000, intervened (in the conflict with the navvies 
of Paris) with the announcement of a general strike of his syndicate. . . . 
Brisson authorised search warrants, had the stations guarded by 
soldiery, and placed lines of sentinels along the track; nobody came 
out " (Histoirede V affaire Dreyfus, tome iv. pp. 310-31 1. Nowadays the 
Gu6rard syndicate is in such good odour with the Government that the 
latter has granted it permission to start a big lottery. On May 14, 1907, 
Clemenceau spoke of it in the Chamber as a body of " sensible and 
reasonable people," opposed to the goings-on of the Confederation du 


scandalous since, in the first place, the congress of 
railway workers had decided that the syndicate should 
not enter into politics and, secondly, because a former 
deputy, a Guesdist, was Millerand's opponent. The 
author of the article feared that " the corporative groups 
were on the wrong track, and that, although they started 
out to utilise poHtics, they might finally find themselves 
the tools of a party." He was quite right ; in any deals 
between the representatives of the syndicates and poli- 
ticians, it will always be the latter who will reap the 
greater advantage. 

PoHticians have more than once intervened in strikes, 
desiring to destroy the prestige of their adversaries and 
to capture the confidence of the workers. The Longwy 
dock strikes, in 1905, arose out of the efforts of a Republican 
federation which attempted to organise the syndicates 
that might possibly serve its poUcy as against that of the 
employers ; ^ the business did not quite take the turn 
desired by the promoters of the movement, who were 
not familiar enough with this kind of operation. Some 
SociaUst poHticians, on the contrary, possess consummate 
skill in combining instincts of revolt into electoral forces. 
It was inevitable, therefore, that a few people should be 
struck by the idea that the great movements of the masses 
might be used for political ends. 

The history of England affords more than one example 
of a Government giving way when numerous demonstra- 
tions against its proposals took place, even though it 
was strong enough to repel by force any attack on existing 
institutions. It seems to be an admitted principle of 
Parliamentary Government that the majority cannot 
persist in pursuing schemes which give rise to popular 
demonstrations of too serious a kind. It is one of the 
appHcations of the system of compromise on which this 
regime is f oimded ; no law is valid when it is looked upon 

* Mouvement socialiste, December 1-15, 1905, p. 130. 


by a minority as being so oppressive that it rouses them 
to violent opposition. Great riotous demonstrations are 
an indication that the moment is not far off when an 
armed revolt might break out ; Governments which are 
respectful of the old traditions give way before such 

Between the first simple threat of trouble and a riot 
a general political strike might take place, which might 
assimie any one of a large number of forms : it might be 
peaceful and of short duration, its aim being to show the 
Government that it is on the wrong track, and that there 
are forces which could resist it ; it might also be the first 
act of a series of bloody riots. 

During the last few years Parliamentary Socialists 
have not been so sure that they would soon come into 
power, and they have recognised that their authority in 
the two Houses is not destined to increase indefinitely. 
When there are no exceptionad circumstances to force 
the Government to buy their support with large con- 
cessions, their Parliamentary power is very much reduced. 
It would therefore be a great advantage to them if they 
could bring outside pressure to bear on recalcitrant 
majorities which would appear to threaten the Con- 
servatives with a formidable insurrection. 

If there were in existence rich working-class federations, 
highly centraUsed and in a position to impose a strict 
discipline on their members, Socialist deputies would not 
have very much trouble in inflicting their leadership 
occasionally on their Parliamentary colleagues. All that 
they would have to do would be to take advantage of an 

1 The clerical party thought that it would be able to make use of 
these tactics to block the application of the law regarding the congrega- 
tions ; it hoped that some show of violence would cause the Govern- 
ment to give way, but the latter stuck to its guns, and it may be said 
that one of the mainsprings of the Parliamentary system was thus 
broken, since there arc fewer obstacles than formerly to the dictator- 
ship of Parliament. 


Opportunity that was favourable to a movement of revolt, 
in order to stop some branch of industry for a few days. 
It has more than once been proposed that the Govern- 
ment should be brought to a standstill in this fashion by 
a stoppage in the working of the mines or of the railways.^ 
For such tactics to produce the full effect desired, the 
strike must break out unexpectedly at the word of com- 
mand of the party, and must stop when the latter has 
signed a compact with the Government. It is for these 
reasons that politicians are so very much in favour of 
the centralisation of the syndicates, and that they talk 
so much about discipHne.^ It is to be understood, of 
course, that this discipline is one which must subject the 
proletariat to their command. Associations which are 
very decentralised and grouped into Bourses du Travail 
would offer them far fewer guarantees of success ; so that 
all those who are not in favour of a solid concentration 
of the proletariat round the party leaders are regarded 
by the latter as anarchists. 

The political general strike has this immense advan- 
tage, that it does not greatly imperil the precious lives of 
the pohticians ; it is an improvement on the moral in- 
surrection which the " Mountain " made use of in the 
month of May 1793, in order to force the Convention to 
expel the Girondists from its midst ; Jaures, who is afraid 
of alarming his clients, the financiers (just as the members 

1 In 1890 the National Congress at Lille of the Guesdist party passed 
a resolution by which it declared that the general strike of the miners 
was actually possible, and that a general strike of the miners by itself 
would bring about the results that are expected in vain from a stoppage 
of every trade. 

* " There may be room in the party for individual initiative, but 
the arbitrary fancies of the individual must be put down. The safety 
of the party lies in its laws ; we must steadfastly abide by them. It 
is the constitution freely chosen by ourselves which binds us together, 
and which will enable us to conquer together or to die." Thus spoke 
a learned exponent of Socialism at the National Council (Socialiste, 
October 7, 1905). If a Jesuit expressed himself thus, there would be 
an outcry about monkish fanaticism. 


of the " Mountain " were afraid of alarming the Depart- 
ments), admires exceedingly any movement which is 
free from the violent acts that distress humanity ; ^ he 
is not, therefore, an irreconcilable opponent of the political 
general strike. 

Recent events have given a very great impetus to 
the idea of the general political strike. The Belgians 
obtained the reform of the Constitution by a display 
which has been decorated, perhaps rather ambitiously, 
with the name of general strike. It now appears that 
these events did not have the tragic aspect they have 
been sometimes credited with : the ministry was very 
pleased to be put in a position to compel the House to 
accept an electoral bill which the majority disapproved 
of ; many Liberal employers were very much opposed to 
this ultra-clerical majority ; what happened, therefore, 
was something quite contrary to a proletarian general 
strike, since the workers served the ends of the State 
and of the capitalists. Since those already far-off times 
there has been another attempt to bring pressure to bear 
on the central authority, with a view to establishing a 
more democratic system of suffrage ; this attempt failed 
completely ; the ministry, this time, was no longer 
secretly on the side of the promoters of the bill, and they 
did not force its adoption. Many Belgians were very 
much astonished at their failure, and could not under- 
stand why the king did not dismiss his ministers to please 
the Socialists ; he had formerly insisted on the resigna- 
tion of his clerical ministers in face of a display of Liberal 
feeling; in fact, this king in their opinion understood 
nothing of his duties, and, as was said at the time, he was 
only a pasteboard king. 

This Belgian incident is not without interest, because 
it brings home to us the fact that the proletarian general 

1 J. Jaur^s, La Convention, p. 1384. 


strike and the political general strike are diametrically 
opposed to one another. Belgium is one of the countries 
where the Sjmdicalist movement is weakest ; the whole 
Socialist organisation is founded on the bakers', grocers', 
and haberdashers' shops that are run by committees of 
the party ; the worker, accustomed from of old to a 
clerical discipline, remains an inferior, who believes him- 
self obliged to follow the leadership of people who sell 
him the commodities he needs at a slight reduction, and 
who din catholic or socialistic speeches into his ears. Not 
only do we find grocery set up as a priestcraft, but it is 
also from Belgium that we get the well-known theory of 
public services against which Guesde wrote such a violent 
pamphlet in 1883, and which Deville called in the same 
year a Belgian imitation of collectivism. ^ The whole of 
Belgian Socialism tends towards the development of State 
industrialism and the constitution of a class of State- 
workers who would be firmly disciplined under the iron 
hand of leaders accepted by democracy.* It is quite 
natural, therefore, that in such a coimtry the general strike 
should be conceived in a political form ; in such conditions 
the only aim of popular insurrection must be to take the 
power from one group of politicians and to hand it over 
to another — the people still remaining the passive beast 
that bears the yoke.' 

The recent troubles in Russia have helped to popularise 

1 Deville, Le Capital, p. lo. 

* Paul Leroy-Beaulieu recently proposed to call the whole body of 
Government employees " the Fourth Estate," and those in private 
employment " the Fifth Estate " ; he said that the first tended to 
form hereditary castes {Dilats, November 28, 1905). As time goes 
on, the distinction between the two groups will grow more pronounced ; 
the first group is a great source of support to Socialist politicians, who 
desire to transform it into a perfectly disciplined corporation capable 
of taking the lead in the working-class movement; thus, by the inter- 
mediacy of the employees of the State, the Parliamentarians would 
govern the more easily the workers in private industry. 

» This does not prevent Vandervelde from comparing the future 
world to the Abbey of Thelema, celebrated by Rabelais, where every- 


the idea of the general strike among professional politicians. 
Many people were surprised at the results produced by 
great concerted stoppages of work ; but what really 
happened and what followed from these disturbances is 
not very well known. People who are acquainted with 
the country believe that Witte was hand in glove with 
many of the revolutionaries, and that he was dehghted at 
being able to obtain, by terrifying the Czar, the dismissal 
of his enemies and the grant of institutions which, in his 
opinion, would put obstacles in the way of any retrnn to 
the old regime. It is very remarkable that for a long 
time the Government seemed paralysed, and in the adminis- 
tration anarchy was at its height, while, from the moment 
Witte thought it necessary in his personal interests to act 
vigorously, repression was rapid ; that day arrived (as 
several people had foreseen) when the financiers needed 
to revive Russian credit. It seems hardly probable that 
previous insurrections ever had the irresistible power 
attributed to them ; the Petit Parisien, which was one 
of the French newspapers that had advertised ^ the fame 
of Witte, said that the great strike of October 1905 came 
to an end on account of the hunger of the workers ; accord- 
ing to this newspaper, the strike had even been prolonged 
for a day in the hope that the Poles would take part in the 
movement, and would obtain concessions as the Finns had 
done; then it congratulated the Poles for having been 
wise enough not to budge, and for not having given a pre- 
text for German intervention {Petit Parisien, November 7, 

body did as he pleased, and from saying that he aspires to an " anarchist 
community " (Destree and Vandervelde, Le Socialisme en Belgiqvte, 
p. 289). Oh, the magic of big words ! 

I Many French papers advertised the merits of the Russian minister, 
Witte, exactly as they advertised cures made by patent medicines. 
The French press receives at all time large subventions from the Russian 
embassy, but in this period Witte spent much more than usual, in 
order to secure his continuance in office by quoting French opinion. 


We must not allow ourselves, therefore, to be too much 
dazzled by certain descriptions, and Ch. Bonnier was 
right when, in the Socialiste of November i8, 1905, he 
cast doubt on the truth of the account which had been 
given of the course of events in Russia ; he had always 
been an irreconcilable opponent of the general strike, and 
he pointed out that there was no resemblance at all 
between what had happened in Russia and what the 
" genuine Syndicalists in France " look forward to. In 
his opinion, the strike in Russia had merely been the con- 
summation of a very complex process, one method out 
of the many employed, which had succeeded owing to 
the exceptionally favourable circumstances in which it 
had developed. 

We have here, then, a criterion which will serve to 
distinguish two kinds of movement generally designated 
by the same name. We have studied a proletarian general 
strike, which is one undivided whole ; now we have to 
consider the general political strike, which combines the 
incidents of economic revolt with many other elements 
depending on systems foreign to the industrial system. 
In the first case, no detail ought to be considered by 
itself ; in the second, everything depends on the art 
with which heterogeneous details are combined. In this 
case the parts must be considered separately, their 
importance estimated, and an attempt made to harmonise 
them. One would think that such a task ought to be 
looked upon as purely Utopian (or even quite absurd) by 
the people who are in the habit of bringing forward so 
many practical objections to the proletarian general strike ; 
but if the proletariat, left to itself, can do nothing, poU- 
ticians are equal to anjrthing. Is it not one of the dogmas 
of democracy that the genius of demagogues can over- 
come all obstacles ? 

I will not stop here to discuss what chances of success 


these tactics have, and I leave it to the stock-jobbers who 
read L'Humanite to discover how the general political 
strike may be prevented from degenerating into anarchy. 
My only concern in the following pages will be to throw 
full light on the difference between the two conceptions 
of the general strike. 


We have seen that the idea of the S5mdicalist general 
strike contains within itself the whole of proletarian 
Socialism ; not only are all its real elements found therein, 
but they are moreover grouped in the same way as in 
social struggles, and their movements are exactly those 
proper to their nature. It would be impossible to find 
any image which would represent equally well the political 
form of Socialism, and which could be contrasted with the 
proletarian conception of it as represented by the general 
strike ; yet, by making the political general strike the 
pivoting point in the tactics of those Socialists who are 
at the same time revolutionary and Parliamentary, it 
becomes possible to obtain an exact notion of what it is 
that separates the latter from the Syndicalists. 

A. To begin with, we perceive immediately that the 
political general strike does not presuppose a class war 
concentrated on a field of battle in which the proletariat 
attacks the middle class ; the division of society into 
two antagonistic armies disappears, for this class of 
revolt is possible with any kind of social structure. In 
the past many revolutions were the result of coalitions 
between discontented groups ; SociaUst writers have 
often pointed out that the poorer classes have more than 
once allowed themselves to be massacred to no purpose, 
save to place power in the hands of new rulers who, with 
great astuteness, had managed to utilise for their own 


advantage a passing discontent of the people against the 
former authorities. 

It seems, indeed, that the Russian Liberals had hoped 
to see something of the kind happen in 1905 ; they were 
delighted at the nmnber of peasant and working-class 
insurrections ; it has even been asserted that they heard 
with great satisfaction of the reverses of the army in 
Manchuria. 1 They beUeved that the Government, getting 
alarmed, would have recourse to their enhghtenment ; 
as there is a large niunber of sociologists among them, 
the litUe science would thus have obtained a huge success ; 
but it is probable that the people would have been left 
to twiddle their thumbs. 

It is, I suppose, for much the same kind of reason that 
the capitalistic shareholders of UHumaniti are such ardent 
admirers of certain strikes ; they look upon the proletariat 
as a very convenient instnmient with which to clear the 
ground, and they feel certain from their study of history 
that it will always be possible for a Socialist Government 
to bring rebels to reason. Moreover, are not the laws 
against anarchists, made in an hour of madness, still care- 
fully preserved on the Statute books ? They are stigma- 
tised as rascally laws ; but they may yet serve to protect 

B. (i) Further, imder the influence of this conception 
it would no longer be true to say that the whole organisa- 
tion of the proletariat was contained within revolutionary 

* The correspondent of the DibcUs, in the issue of November 25, 1906, 
related how the members of the Duma had congratulated a Japanese 
journalist on the victories of his compatriots. (Cf . the Dibats, December 
25. 1907.) 

• We may also ask how much the old enemies of military justice 
desire the abolition of the courts martial. For a long time, the National- 
ists were able to maintain viith some show of reason that they were 
retained in order that Drejrfus, if the Court of Cassation ordered a 
third trial, should not be brought up before a Court of Assizes; a 
court martial can be more easily packed than a jury. 


Syndicalism. Since the Syndicalist general strike would 
no longer be the entire revolution, other organisations 
would have been created side by side with the syndicates ; 
as the strike could only be one detail cunningly dovetailed 
into many other incidents which must be set going at the 
propitious moment, the syndicates would have to await 
the word of command of the political committees, or at 
least work in perfect unison with the committees which 
represent the superior intelligence of the Sociahst move- 
ment. In Italy Ferri has symbolised this unison in a 
rather comical manner, by saying that Socialism has need 
of two legs ; this figure of speech was borrowed from 
Lessing, who Httle thought that it might become one of 
the principles of sociology. In the second scene of Minna 
von Barnhelm, the innkeeper says to Just that a man 
cannot stand on one glass of brandy any more than he 
can walk on one leg ; he also adds that all good things 
are three in niunber, and that a rope of four strands is 
all the stronger. I am not aware that sociology has made 
any use of these other aphorisms, which- are worth just 
as much as the one Ferri misused. 

(2) If the SyndicaUst general strike is connected with 
the idea of an era of great economic progress, the political 
general strike calls up rather that of a period of decadence. 
Experience shows that classes on the downgrade are more 
easily captured by the fallacious harangues of pohticians 
than classes on the upgrade, so that there seems to be a 
close relation between the political perspicacity of men 
and the conditions imder which they hve. Prosperous 
classes may often act very imprudently, because they 
have too much confidence in their own strength ; they 
face the future with too much boldness, and they are 
overcome for the moment by a frenzied desire for renown. 
Enfeebled classes habitually put their trust in people who 
promise them the protection of the State, without ever 
trying to understand how this protection could possibly 


harmonise their discordant interests ; they readily enter 
into every coaUtion formed for the purpose of forcing 
concessions from the Government ; they greatly admire 
charlatans who speak with a glib tongue. Socialism 
must be exceedingly careful if it is not to fall to the level 
of what Engels called bombastic antisemitism.^ and the 
advice of Engels on this point has not always been followed. 

The political general strike presupposes that very 
diverse social groups shall possess the same faith in the 
magical force of the State ; this faith is never lacking in 
social groups which are on the downgrade, and its existence 
enables windbags to represent themselves as able to do 
everything. The political general strike would be greatly 
helped by the stupidity of philanthropists, and this 
stupidity is always a result of the degeneration of the rich 
classes. Its chances of success would be enhanced by 
the fact that it would have to deal with cowardly and 
discouraged capitalists. 

(3) Under such conditions it would no longer be possible 
to ignore plans of the future state of society ; these plans 
on which Marx poured ridicule, and which the Syndicalist 
general strike ignores, would become an essential element 
of the new system. A political general strike could not 
be proclaimed until it was known with absolute certainty 
that the complete framework of the future organisation 

1 Engels feared that the Socialists, in order to gain adherents in the 
electoral struggles rapidly, would make promises which were contrary 
to Marxist doctrine. The antisemites told the peasants and the small 
shopkeepers that they would protect them from the development of 
capitalism. Engels thought that an imitation of this procedure would 
be dangerous, since, in his opinion, the social revolution could only be 
realised when capitalism had almost completely destroyed the small 
proprietors and small industries ; if the Socialists, then, endeavoured to 
hinder this evolution, they would ultimately compromise their own 
cause. Engels did not know that the French Socialists (whose agrarian 
programme he was criticising) had often made such promises, and that 
several Socialist deputies were very friendly with Drumont. Engels, 
"La Question agraire et le Socialisme," in the Mouvement socialistem 
October 15, 1900, p. 462. Cf. pp. 458-459 and p. 463. 


was ready. That is what Jaur^s intended to convey 
in his articles of 1901 when he said that modem society 
" will recoil from an enterprise as indeterminate and as 
empty (as the Syndicalist strike) as one draws back from 
a precipice." ^ 

There are plenty of young barristers, briefless and 
likely to remain so, who have filled enormous note-books 
with their detailed projects for the social organisation of 
the future. If we have not yet been favoured with the 
breviary of the revolution which Lucien Herr announced 
in 1900, we know at least that regulations have been 
framed for the estabUshment of the book-keeping branch 
of collectivist society, and Tarbouriech has even gone 
into the question of the printed forms to be recommended 
for the use of the future bureaucracy.^ Jaur^s is con- 
tinually bewailing the fact that so many lights are con- 
demned to remain hidden imder the capitalist bushel ; 
and he feels convinced that the revolution depends very 
much less on the conditions Marx had in mind than on 
the efiEorts of imknown geniuses. 

C. I have already called attention to the terrible nature 
of the revolution as conceived by Marx and the SyndicaHsts, 
and I have said that it is very important that its character 
of absolute and irrevocable transformation should be 
preserved, because it is that which gives SociaUsm its high 
educational value. The comfort-loving followers of our 
politicians could not view with any approval the pro- 
foimdly serious work which is being carried on by the 
proletariat ; the former desire to reassure the middle 

1 Jaures, t.tudes socialistes, p. 107. 

* Many idiotically serious things like thj*' may be found in 
Tarbouriech's CiU future. People who call themselves well-informed 
say that Arthur Fontaine, Directeur du Travail, has some astonishing 
solutions of the social question in his portfolios, and that he will reveal 
them on the day he retires. Our successors will bless him for having 
saved up for them pleasures we shall not know. 


class, and promise not to allow the people to give them- 
selves up entirely to their anarchical instincts. They 
explain to the middle class that they do not by any means 
dream of suppressing the great State machine, but wise 
SociaHsts desire two things : (i) to take possession of this 
machine so that they may improve its works, and make 
them nm to further their friends* interests as much as 
possible, and {2) to assure the stability of the Government, 
which will be very advantageous for all business men. 
Tocqueville had observed that, since the beginning of the 
nineteenth century, the administrative institutions of 
France having changed very Uttle, revolutions had no longer 
produced any very great upheavals.^ SociaUst financiers 
have not read Tocqueville, but theyimderstand instinctively 
that the preservation of a highly centraUsed, very authori- 
tative and very democratic State puts immense resources 
at their disposal, and protects them from proletarian 
revolution. The transformations which their friends, 
the Parhamentary Socialists, may carry out will always 
be of a very limited scope, and it will always be possible, 
thanks to the State, to correct any imprudences they may 

The general strike of the Syndicalists drives away from 
SociaUsm all financiers in quest of adventures ; the 
political strike rather pleases these gentlemen, because it 
would be carried out in circumstances favourable to the 
power of politicians, and consequently to the operations 
of their financial allies.^ 

* Tocqueville, VAricien RSgime et la R^olution, p. 297. 

* In the Avant-Garde of October 29, 1905, may be read the report 
of Lucien Rolland to the National Council of the Unified Socialist 
Party on the election at Florae of Louis Dreyfus, a speculator in grain 
and shareholder of L'HumaniU. " I was greatly pained," says Rolland, 
" to hear one of the rois de I'ipogue (kings of the time) speak in the name 
of our Internationale, of our red flag, of our principles, and cry, ' Long 
live the social republic ! ' " Those whose only knowledge of this 
election has been gained from the official report published in the Socialiste 
of October 28, 1905, will have gained a singularly false idea of it. 


Marx supposes, exactly as the Syndicalists do, that the 
revolution will be absolute and irrevocable, because it will 
place the forces of production in the hands oifree men, i.e. 
of men who will be capable of running the workshop 
created by capitaUsm without any need of masters. This 
conception would not at all suit the financiers and the 
politicians whom they support, for both are only fit to 
exercise the noble profession of masters. Therefore, the 
authors of all enquiries into moderate Socialism are forced 
to acknowledge that the latter implies the division of 
society into two groups : the first of these is a select body, 
organised as a political party, which has adopted the 
mission of thinking for the thoughtless masses, and which 
imagines that, because it allows the latter to enjoy the 
results of its superior enlightenment, it has done some- 
thing admirable.^ The second is the whole body of the 
producers. The select body of politicians has no other 
profession than that of using its wits, and they find that 
it is strictly in accordance with the principles of immanent 
justice (of which they are sole owners) that the proletariat 
should work to feed them and furnish them with the 
means for an existence that only distantly resembles an 

This division is so evident that generally no attempt 
is made to hide it : the officials of Socialism constantly 
speak of the party as of an organism having a life of its 
own. At the International SociaUst Congress of 1900, 
the party was warned against the danger it ran in f oUow- 

Of&cial Socialist documents should be mistrusted. I do not believe 
that, during the Dreyfus case, the friends of the general stafE ever 
distorted truth so much as the ofi&cial Socialists did on this occasion. 

The fourieriste Tousseil published in the reign of Louis-Philippe 
a book entitled Les Juifs rois de I'epoque, in which he attacked the 
great speculators. Holland is alluding to this, and wishes to recall the 
fact that L. Dreyfus was a large speculator in corn. 

1 The Intellectuals are not, as is so often said, men who think : they 
are people who have adapted the profession of thinking, and who take an 
aristocratic salary on account of the itobility of this profession. 


ing a policy which might separate it too much from the 
proletariat ; it must inspire the masses with confidence 
if it desires to have their support on the day of the great 
battle.^ The great reproach which Marx levelled at his 
adversaries in the Alliance was this separation of the 
leaders and the led, which had the effect of reinstating 
the State — and which is to-day so marked in Germany — 
and elsewhere. 


A. We will now carry our analysis of the ideas grouped 
round the political strike a little farther, and enquire first 
of all what becomes of the notion of class. 

(i) It will no longer be possible to distinguish the 
classes by the place occupied by their members in capital- 
istic production ; we go back to the old distinction between 
rich groups and poor groups — such was the division 
between the classes as it appeared to those older Socialists 
who sought to reform the iniquities of the actual distribu- 
tion of riches. The ** social Catholics " take up this 
position also, and endeavour to improve the lot of the 
poor, not only by charity, but also by a large number of 
institutions which aim at a mitigation of the wretchedness 
caused by the capitahst industrial system. It seems that 
even to-day things are considered from this point of view 
in circles that admire Jaures as a prophet ; I have been 
told that the latter sought to convert Buisson to SociaHsm 
by making an appeal to the goodness of his heart, and that 
these two soothsayers had a very ludicrous discussion 
as to the best way to remedy the defects of society. 

» For example, Vaillant says : " Since we have to fight this great 
battle, do you think that we can win it if we have not the proletariat 
behind us ? We must have the proletariat ; and we shall not have it 
if we have discouraged it, if we have shown it that the Party no longer 
represents its interests, no longer represents the war of the working 
class against the capitalist class " {Cahiers de la Quinzaine, i6« de la 
II« serie, pp. 159-160). This number contains the shorthand note of 
the proceedings at the Congress. 


The masses believe that they are suffering from the 
iniquitous consequences of a past which was full of 
violence, ignorance, and wickedness ; they are confident 
that the genius of their leaders will render them less 
unhappy ; they believe that democracy, if it were only 
free, would replace a malevolent hierarchy by a benevo- 
lent hierarchy. 

The leaders, who foster this sweet illusion in their men, 
see the situation from quite another point of view ; the 
present social organisation revolts them just in so far as 
it creates obstacles to their ambition ; they are less shocked 
by the existence of the classes than by their own inability 
to attain to the positions already acquired by older men ; 
when they have penetrated far enough into the sanctuaries 
of the State, into drawing-rooms and places of amusement, 
they cease, as a rule, to be revolutionary and speak 
learnedly of " evolution." 

(2) The sentiment of revolt which is met with in the 
poorer classes will henceforth be coloured by a violent 
jealousy. Our democratic newspapers foster this passion 
with considerable skill, imagining that this is the best 
means of dulling the minds of their readers and of keeping 
up the circulation of the paper ; they exploit the scandals 
which arise from time to time among the rich ; they lead 
their readers to feel a savage pleasure when they see shame 
entering the household of one of the great ones of the earth. 
With a really astonishing impudence, they pretend that 
they are thus serving the cause of the superfine morality, 
which they hold as much at heart, they say, as the well- 
being and the liberty of the poorer classes ! But it is 
probable that their own interests are the sole motives for 
their actions. ^ 

1 I note here, in passing, that the Petit Parisien, the importance of 
which as an organ of the pohcy of social reform is so great, took up 
strongly the case of the Princess of Saxony and the charming teacher 
Giron. This newspaper, which is very fond of sermonising the people, 


Jealousy is a sentiment which seems to belong, above 
all, to passive beings. Leaders have active sentiments ; 
with them, jealousy is transformed into a thirst to obtain, 
at whatever cost, the most coveted situations, and they 
employ to this end any means which enables them to set 
aside people who stand in the way of their onward march. 
In poUtics, people are no more held back by scruples than 
they are in sport, and we hear every day of cases where 
competitors in all kinds of contests seek to improve their 
chances by some trickery or other. 

(3) The masses who are led have a very vague and 
extremely simple idea of the means by which their lot 
can be improved ; demagogues easily get them to believe 
that the best way is to utilise the power of the State to 
pester the rich. We pass thus from jealousy to vengeance, 
and it is well known that vengeance is a sentiment of 
extraordinary power, especially with the weak. The 
history of the Greek cities and of the Italian republics 
of the Middle Ages is full of instances of fiscal laws which 
were very oppressive on the rich, and which contributed 
not a little towards the ruin of governments. In the 
fifteenth century, Aeneas Sylvius (later Pope Pius II.) 
noted with astonishment the extraordinary prosperity 
of the commercial towns of Germany and the great hberty 
enjoyed therein by the middle class, who, in Italy, were 
persecuted.^ If our contemporary social policy were 
examined closely, it would be seen that it also was steeped 
in ideas of jealousy and vengeance ; many regulations 
have been framed more with the idea of pestering 
employers than of improving the situation of the workers. 
When the clericals are in a minority, they never fail to 

cannot understand why the outraged husband obstinately refuses to 
take back his wife. On September 14, 1906, it said that " she had 
broken with the ordinary moral code " ; it may be concluded from this 
that the moral code of the Petit Parisien is something quite out of tlie 

* Jansen, L'Allemagne et la RSforme, French trans., tome i. p. 361. 


recommend severe regulations in order to be revenged 
on free-thinking free-mason employers.^ 

The leaders obtain all sorts of advantages from these 
methods ; they alarm the rich, and exploit them for their 
own personal profit ; they cry louder than anybody 
against the privileges of fortime, and know how to obtain 
for themselves all the enjoyments which the latter 
procures ; by making use of the evil instincts and the 
stupidity of their followers, they realise this curious 
paradox, that they get the people to applaud the in- 
equality of conditions in the name of democratic equality. 
It would be impossible to understamd the success of 
demagogues from the time of Athens to contemporary 
New York, if due account was not taken of the extra- 
ordinary power of the idea of vengeance in extinguishing 
reasonable reflection. 

I believe that the only means by which this pernicious 
influence of the demagogues may be wiped out are those 
employed by SociaUsm in propagating the notion of the 
proletarian general strike ; it awakens in the depths of 
the soul a sentiment of the sublime proportionate to the 
conditions of a gigantic struggle ; it forces the desire to 
satisfy jealousy by malice into the backgroimd ; it brings 
to the fore the pride of free men, and thus protects the 
worker from the quackery of ambitious leaders, hungering 
for the fleshpots. 

B. The great differences which exist between the two 
general strikes (JL.e, between the two kinds of SociaUsm) 
become still more obvious when social struggles are com- 
pared with war ; in fact, war also may give rise to two 

* The application of the social laws gives rise — in France, at least — 
to very singular inequalities of treatment ; judicial proceedings depend 
on political or financial conditions. The case of the rich tailor may 
be remembered who was decorated by Millerand and against whom 
proceedings had so often been taken for infringement of the laws for 
the protection of work-girls. 


Opposite systems of ideas, so that quite contradictory 
things can be said about it, all based on incontestable 

War may be considered from its noble side, i.e. as it 
has been considered by poets celebrating armies which 
have been particularly illustrious ; proceeding thus we 
find in war : 

(i) The idea that the profession of arms cannot 
compare to any other profession; — that it puts the man 
who adopts this profession in a class which is superior to 
the ordinary conditions of life, — that history is based 
entirely on the adventures of warriors, so that the economic 
life only existed to maintain them. 

(2) The sentiment of glory which Renan so justly 
looked upon as one of the most singular and the most 
powerful creations of hiunan genius, and which has been 
of such incomparable value in history.^ 

(3) The ardent desire to try one's strength in great 
battles, to submit to the test which gives the military 
caUing its claim to superiority, and to conquer glory at 
the peril of one's life. 

There is no need for me to insist on these features of 
war at any great length ; my readers will understand the 
part played in ancient Greece by this conception of war. 
The whole of classical history is dominated by the idea 
of war conceived heroically : in their origin, the institu- 
tions of the Greek republics had as their basis the organisa- 
tion of armies of citizens ; Greek art reached its apex in 
the citadels ; philosophers conceived of no other possible 
form of education than that which fostered in youth the 
heroic tradition, and they endeavoured to keep the study 
and practice of music within bounds, because they wished 
to prevent the development of sentiments foreign to this 
discipline ; social Utopias were created with a view to 
maintaining a nucleus of homeric warriors in the cities, 

* Renan, Hisioire du peuple d'Isrviel, tome iv. pp. 199-200. 


etc. In our own times, the wars of Liberty have been 
scarcely less fruitful in ideas than those of the ancient 

There is another aspect of waf which does not possess 
this character of nobility, and on which the pacificists 
always dwell. ^ The object of war is no longer war itself ; 
its object is to allow politicians to satisfy their ambi- 
tions : the foreigner must be conquered in order that they 
themselves may obtain great and immediate material 
advantages ; the victory must also give the party which 
led the country during the time of success so great a 
preponderance that it can distribute great favours to its 
followers ; finally, it is hoped that the citizens will be so 
intoxicated by the spell of victory they will overlook the 
sacrifices which they are called upon to make, and will 
allow themselves to be carried away by enthusiastic 
conceptions of the future. Under the influence of this 
state of mind, the people permit the Government to 
develop its authority in an improper manner, without 
any protest, so that every conquest abroad may be con- 
sidered as having for its inevitable corollary a conquest 
at home made by the party in office. 

The Syndicalist general strike presents a very great 
number of analogies with the first conception of war : 
the proletariat organises itself for battle, separating itself 
distinctly from the other parts of the nation, and regard- 
ing itself as the great motive power of history, all other 
social considerations being subordinated to that of 
combat ; it is very clearly conscious of the glory which 
will be attached to its historical role and of the heroism 
of its militant attitude ; it longs for the final contest in 
which it will give proof of the whole measure of its valour. 
Pursuing no conquest, it has no need to make plans for 
utilising its victories : it coimts on expelling the capitahsts 

^ The distinction between the two aspects of war is the basis oi 
Proudhon's book on La Guerre et la paix. 


from the productive domain, and on taking their place 
in the workshop created by capitaUsm. 

This conception of the general strike manifests in the 
clearest manner its indifference to the material profits of 
conquest by affirming that it proposes to suppress the 
State. The State has always been, in fact, the organiser 
of the war of conquest, the dispenser of its fruits, and the 
raison d'etre of the dominating groups which profit by 
the enterprises — ^the cost of which is borne by the general 
body of society. 

Politicians adopt the other point of view ; they argue 
about social conflicts in exactly the same manner as 
diplomats argue about international affairs ; all the actual 
fighting apparatus interests them very little ; they see in 
the combatants nothing but instruments. The proletariat 
is their army, which they love in the same way that a 
colonial administrator loves the troops which enable him 
to bring large numbers of negroes under his authority ; 
they apply themselves to the task of training the prole- 
tariat, because they are in a hurry to win quickly the great 
battles which wiU deliver the State into their hands ; they 
keep up the ardoiu: of their men, as the ardom: of troops 
of mercenaries has always been kept up, by promises of 
pillage, by appeals to hatred, and also by the small favours 
which their occupancy of a few political places enables 
them to distribute already. But the proletariat for them 
is food for cannon, and nothing else, as Marx said in 1873.* 

The reinforcement of power of the State is at the basis 
of all their conceptions ; in the organisations which they 
at present control, the politicians are already preparing 
the framework of a strong, centralised and disciplined 
authority, which will not be hampered by the criticism 
of an opposition, which will be able to enforce silence, and 
which will give currency to its Hes. 

^ L* Alliance de la dimocratie socialiste, p. 15. Marx accused his 
opponents of modelling their policy on Napoleonic lines. 


C. In Socialist literature the question of a future 
dictatorship of the proletariat is constantly cropping up, 
but nobody likes to explain it ; sometimes this formula 
is improved and the epithet impersonal is added to the 
substantive dictatorships though this addition does not 
throw much light on the question. Bernstein pointed 
out a few years ago that this dictatorship would probably 
be that " of club orators and of literary men/' ^ and he 
was of opinion that the Sociahsts of 1848, when speaking 
of this dictatorship, had had in view an imitation of 1793, 
" a central, dictatorial and revolutionary authority, up- 
held by the terrorist dictatorship of the revolutionary 
clubs " ; he was alarmed by this outlook, and he asserted 
that all the working men with whom he had had an 
opportimity of conversing were very mistrustful of the 
future.* Hence he concluded that it would be better 
to base Socialist policy and propaganda on a conception 
of modem society more in accordance with the idea of 
evolution. His analysis seems to me to be inadequate. 

In the dictatorship of the proletariat we may first of 
all notice a reminiscence of the Old Regime. Socialists 
have for a long time been dominated by the idea that 
capitalist society must be Hkened to the feudal system ; 
I scarcely know any idea more false and more dangerous. 
They imagine that the new feudalism would disappear 
beneath the influence of forces analogous to those which 

* Bernstein evidently had in mind here a well-known article by 
Proudhon, from which, moreover, he quotes a fragment on page 47 of 
his book. This article closes with imprecations against the Intellectuals : 
" Then you will'know what a revolution is, that has been set going by 
lawyers, accomplished by artists, and conducted by novelists and poets. 
Nero was an artist, a lyric and dramatic artist, a passionate lover of 
the ideal, a worshipper of the antique, a collector of medals, a tourist, 
a poet, an orator, a swordsman, a sophist, a Don Juan, a Lovelace, a 
nobleman full of wit, fancy, and fellow-feeling, overflowing with love 
of life and love of pleasure. That is why he was Nero " (RepreserUant 
du peuple, April 29, 1848). 

* Bernstein, SocicUisme thiorique et social-dimocraiie pratique, pp. 298 
and 226. 


ruined the old feudal system. The latter succumbed 
beneath the attacks of a strong and centralised power, 
imbued with the conviction that it had received a mandate 
from God to employ exceptional measures against the 
evil. The kings of the new model ^ who estabhshed modem 
monarchical system were terrible despots, wholly destitute 
of scruples ; but great historians have absolved them 
from all blame for the acts of violence they committed, 
because they lived in times when feudal anarchy, the 
barbarous manners of the old nobles and their lack of 
culture, joined to a want of respect for the ideas of the 
past,^ seemed crimes against which it was the duty of the 
royal power to act energetically. It is probably then 
with a view to treating the leaders of capitalism with a 
wholly royal energy that there is so much talk nowadays 
of a dictatorship of the proletariat. 

Later on, royalty relaxed its despotism and constitu- 
tional government took its place. It is said that the 
dictatorship of the proletariat will also weaken at length, 
and will disappear, and that finally an anarchical society 
will take its place ; but how this will come about is not 
explained. The regal despotism did not fall by itself or 
by the goodness of sovereigns ; one must be very simple 
to suppose that the people who would profit by the 
demagogic dictatorship would wiUingly abandon its 

Bernstein saw quite plainly that the dictatorship of 
the proletariat corresponds to a division of society into 
masters and servants, but it is curious that he did not 

1 Cf. Gervinus, Introduction d, I'histoire du XI X' siicle, French trans., 
p. 27. 

* The history of the papacy very much embarrasses modern writers ; 
some of them are fundamentally hostile to it on account of their hatred 
of Christianity ; but many are led to condone the greatest faults of the 
papal policy in the Middle Ages on account of the natural sympathy 
which inclines them to admire all the efforts made by theorists to tyrannise 
the world. 


perceive that the idea of the political strike (which he 
now, to a certain extent, accepts) is connected in the closest 
manner with this dictatorship of politicians which he fears. 
The men who had managed to organise the proletariat 
in the form of an army, ever ready to obey their orders, 
would be generals who would set up a state of siege in 
vanquished society ; we should therefore have, on the day 
following the revolution, a dictatorship exercised by those 
poHticians who in the society of to-day already form 
a compact group. 

I have already recalled what Marx said about the 
people who reinstated the State by creating in con- 
temporary society an embryo of the future society of 
masters. The history of the French Revolution shows 
us how these things happen. The revolutionaries made 
arrangements whereby their administrative staff was 
ready to take possession of authority immediately the 
old administration decamped, so that there was no break 
of continuity in the domination of a governing class. 
There are no bounds to Jaures's admiration for these 
operations, which he describes in the course of his Histoire 
socialiste ; he does not exactly understand their significance, 
but he guesses the analogy they bear to his own con- 
ceptions of social revolution. The fiabbiness of the men 
of that time was so great that sometimes the substitution 
of the old by the new officials was accomplished under 
conditions bordering on farce ; we always find a super- 
numerary state — an Etat postiche'^ (artificial state), to use 

* One of the ludicrous comedies of the Revolution is that related by 
Jaur^s in La Convention, pp. 1386-1388. In the month of May 1793 
an insurrectionary committee was set up at the Bishop's palace, which 
formed an £tat postiche (see above), and which on May 31 repaired to 
the town-hall and declared that the people of Paris withdrew all powers 
from every constituted authority ; the general council of the Commune, 
having no means of defence, " was forced to give in," but not without 
assuming an air of high tragedy : pompous speeches, embracings all 
round, " to prove that there was neither wounded vanity on the one part, 
nor pride of dofnination on the other " ; finally, this buffoonery was 


the expression of that time — ^which is organised in advance 
by the side of the legal State, which considers itself a 
legitimate before it has become a legal power, and which 
profits by some slight incident to take up the reins of 
government as they sUp from the feeble hands of the 
constituted authorities. 

The adoption of the red flag is one of the most singular 
and the most characteristic episodes of that time. This 
signal was used in times of disaffection to give warning 
that martial law was about to be set up ; on August lo, 
1792, it became the revolutionary symbol, in order to 
proclaim " the martial law of the people against rebels 
to the executive power.*' Jaur^ comments on this 
incident in these terms : " It is we, the people, who are 
now the law. . . . We are not rebels. The rebels are 
in the Tuileries, and it is against the factions of the court 
and the party of the constitutional monarchy that we 
raise, in the name of the country and of Uberty, the flag of 
legal repressions." ^ Thus the insurgents began by pro- 
claiming that they held legitimate authority ; they are 
fighting against a State which has only the appearance 
of legitimacy, and they take the red flag to S5miboUse 
the re-estabhshment by force of the real order. As 
conquerors, they will treat the conquered as conspirators, 
and will demand that their plots be pimished. The real 
conclusion to all these fine ideas was to be the massacre 
of the prisoners in September. 

All this is perfectly simple, and the general political 
strike would develop in the same way with similar 
occurrences. In order that this strike should succeed, 
the greater part of the proletariat must be members of 

terminated by an order which reinstated the council which had just been 
dismissed. Jaur^s is delightful here : the revolutionary committee, 
he says, " freed (the legal authority) from all the fetters of legality." 
This happy thought is a reproduction of the well-known phrase of the 
Bonapartists : " Sortir de la 16galite pour rentrer dans le droit." 
» Jaur^s, LtgislaXive, p. 1288. 


syndicates which are under the thumb of political com- 
mittees ; there must be a complete organisation made up 
of the men who will take over the Government, so that 
it will only be necessary to make a simple transmutation 
in the personnel of the State. The organisation of the 
itat postiche would have to be more complete than it was 
at the time of the Revolution, because the conquest of 
the State by force does not seem so easy to accomplish 
as formerly ; but the principle would be the same. It 
is even possible that, since the transmission of authority 
operates nowadays in a more perfect fashion, thanks 
to the new resources at the disposal of the Parliamentary 
system, and since the proletariat would be thoroughly 
well organised under the official S5mdicates, we should 
see the social revolution culminate in a wonderful system 
of slavery. 


The study of the political strike leads us to a better 
imderstanding of a distinction we must always have in 
mind when we reflect on contemporary social questions. 
Sometimes the terms force and violence are used in speak- 
ing of acts of authority, sometimes in speaking of acts of 
revolt. It is obvious that the two cases give rise to very 
different consequences. I think it would be better to 
adopt a terminology which would give rise to no ambiguity, 
and that the term violence should be employed only for 
acts of revolt ; we should say, therefore, that the object 
of force is to impose a certain social order in which the 
minority governs, while violence tends to the destruction 
of that order. The middle class have used force since 
the beginning of modem times, while the proletariat now 
reacts against the middle class and against the State by 

For a long time I was convinced that it is very 


important that the theory of social forces should be thor- 
oughly investigated — in a large measure, the forces may be 
compared to those acting on matter ; but I was not able 
to perceive the capital distinction in question here until 
I had come to consider the problem of the general strike. 
Moreover, I do not think that Marx had ever examined 
any other form of social constraint except force. In my 
Saggi di critica del marxismo I endeavoured, a few years 
ago, to sum up the argmnents of Marx with respect to the 
adaptation of man to the conditions of capitalism, and I 
presented these argimients in the following manner, on 
pages 38-40 :— 

" (i) There is a social system which is to a certain 
extent mechanical, in which man seems subject to true 
natural laws : classical economists place at the beginning 
of things that automatism which is in reality the last 
product of the capitalistic regime. ' But the advance of 
capitalist production,' says Marx,^ ' develops a more and 
more numerous class of workers who, by education, tradi- 
tion, and habit, look upon the conditions of that mode of 
production as self-evident laws of nature.' The interven- 
tion of an intelligent will in this mechanism would appear 
as an exception. 

" {2) There is a regime of emulation and of keen com- 
petition which impels men to set aside traditional obstacles, 
to seek constantly for what is new, and to imagine con- 
ditions of existence which seem to them to be better. 
According to Marx, it is in this revolutionary task that 
the middle class excelled. 

" (3) There is a regime of violence, which plays an 
important part in history, and which assumes several 
distinct forms : 

** {a) On the lowest level, we find a scattered kind of 
violence, which resembles the struggle for life, which acts 
through economic conditions, and which carries out a 

1 Capital, English translation edit, by Engels, p. 76. 


slow but sure expropriation ; violence of this character 
works especially \^ith the aid of fiscal arrangements.^ 

" (b) Next comes the concentrated and organised force 
of the State, which acts directly on labour, ' to regulate 
wages, i.e. force them within the limits suitable to surplus 
value making, to lengthen the working day, and to main- 
tain the labourer himself in the normal degree of depend- 
ence ; this is an essential element of the so-called primitive 
accumulation. 2 

'* (c) We have, finally, violence properly so called, 
which occupies so great a place in the history of primitive 
acciunulation, and which constitutes the principle subject 
of history." 

A few supplementary observations may be useful 

We must first of all observe that these different 
phases are placed in a logical sequence, starting from 
states which most resemble an organism, and in which 
no independent will appears, and ending in states in 
which individual minds bring forward their considered 
plans ; but the historical order is quite the contrary of 
this order. 

At the origin of capitalist accumulation we find some 
very distinct historical facts, which appear each in its 
proper time, with its own characteristics, and under 
conditions so clearly marked that they are described in 
the chronicles. We find, for instance, the expropriation 
of the peasants and the suppression of the old legisla- 
tion which had constituted *' serfdom and the indus- 
trial hierarchy." Marx adds : " The history of this 

^ Marx points out that in Holland taxation was used to raise the 
price of necessities artificially ; this was the application of a principle 
of government : this system had a vicious effect on the working class 
and ruined the peasant, the artisan, and the other members of the 
better-paid workers ; but it secured the absolute submission of the 
workers to their masters, the manufacturers {Capital, Eng. trans, p. 781). 

* Capital, Eng. trans, p. 761. 


expropriation is not a matter of conjecture ; it is in- 
scribed in the annals of humanity in indehble letters of 
blood and fire/' ^ 

Farther on Marx shows how the dawn of modem 
times was marked by the conquest of America, the en- 
slavement of negroes and the colonial wars : " The different 
methods of primitive accumulation which the capitaUst 
era brought about are divided in a more or less chrono- 
logical order first of all [between] Portugal, Spain, France 
and England, imtil the latter combined the lot, during 
the last thirty years of the seventeenth century, into a 
systematic whole, embracing simultaneously the colonial 
system, public credit, modem finance and the protec- 
tionist system. Some of these methods are backed by 
the employment of brute force ; but all, without excep- 
tion, exploit the power of the State, the concentrated 
and organised force of society, in order to precipitate 
violently the passage from the feudal economic order to 
the capitalist economic order, and to shorten the phases 
of the transition." It is on this occasion that he com- 
pared force to a midwife, and says that it multipUes the 
social movement. 2 

Thus we see that economic forces are closely bound up 
with political power, and capitalism finally perfects itself 
to the point of being able to dispense with any direct 
appeal to the public force, except in very exceptional cases. 
" In the ordinary run of things, the worker can be left to 
the action of the natural laws of production, i.e. to his 
dependence on capital, a dependence springing from 

1 Capital, Eng. trans, p. 738. 

* Capital, Eng. ttans. p. 776. The German text says that force 
is an oekonomische Potenz {Kapiial. 4th edition, p. 716) ; the French 
text says that force is an agent iconomique. Fourier calls geometric 
progressions puissancielles {Nouveau Monde industriel et societaire, p. 
376). Marx evidently used the word Potenz in the sense of a multiplier ; 
cf. in Capital, p. 176, col. i, the term travail puissanci^ for labour of a 
multiplied productivity. [The English translation has economic power. 
— Trans. Note.] 


guaranteed, and perpetuated by the very mechanism of 
production." ^ 

When we reach the last historical stage, the action of 
independent wills disappears, and the whole of society 
resembles an organised body, working automatically ; 
observers can then estabUsh an economic science which 
appears to them as exact as the sciences of physical 
nature. The error of many economists consisted in their 
ignorance of the fact that this system, which seemed 
natural or primitive to them,^ is the result of a series of 
transformations which might not have taken place, and 
always remains a very unstable structure, for it could be 
destroyed by force, as it had been created by the inter- 
vention of force ; moreover, contemporary economic 
literature is full of complaints respecting the intervention 
of the State, which has thereby upset natural laws. 

Nowadays economists are little disposed to beheve 
that these natural laws are in reality laws of Nature ; 
they are well aware that the capitalist system was reached 
but slowly, but they consider that it was reached by a 
progress which should enchant the minds of all enlightened 
men. This progress, in fact, is demonstrated by three 
remarkable facts : it has become possible to set up a 
science of economics ; laws can be stated in the simplest, 
surest, and most elegant formulas, since the law of contract 
dominates every country of advanced capitaUsm ; ^ the 
caprices of the rulers of the State are no longer so apparent, 
and thus the path towards liberty is open. Any return 

1 Capital, tome i. p. 327, col. i. 

* Natural, in the Marxian sense, is that which resembles a physical 
movement as opposed to the idea of creation by an intelligent will ; 
for the deists of the eighteenth century, natural was that which had 
been created by God, and which was both primitive and excellent ; 
this is still, it seems, the view of G. de Molinari. 

» In a very advanced capitalist regime questions of agricultural rights, 
women's dowries, the division of landed property go into the back- 
ground ; the first place is occupied by commercial associations, bills of 
exchange, sale of stocks and shares, etc. 



to the past seems to them a crime against science, law, 
and human dignity. 

SociaHsm looks upon this evolution as being a history 
of middle-class force, and it only sees differences of degree 
where the economists imagine that they are discovering 
difference of kind. Whether force manifests itself under 
the aspect of historical acts of coercion, or of fiscal oppres- 
sion, or of conquest, or labour legislation, or whether it 
is wholly bound up with the economic system, it is always 
a middle-class force labouring with more or less skill to 
bring about the capitaUst order of society. 

Marx endeavoured to describe the details of this evolu- 
tion very carefully ; he gave very little detail, however, 
about the organisation of the proletariat. This gap in 
his work has often been explained. He found in England 
an enormous mass of materials concerning the history of 
capitalism, which was fairly well arranged, and wliich 
had already been discussed by economists ; he was there- 
fore able to investigate thoroughly the different peculiari- 
ties of middle-class evolution, but he was not very well 
furnished with matter on which he could argue about the 
organisation of the proletariat ; he was obliged, therefore, 
to remain content with an explanation, in very abstract 
formulas, of his ideas on the subject of the path which the 
proletariat must take, in order to arrive at the final revolu- 
tionary struggle. The consequence of this inadequacy 
6f Marx's work was that Marxism has deviated from the 
path assigned to it by its real nature. 

The people who pride themselves on being orthodox 
Marxians have made no attempt to add anything essential 
to what their master has written, and they have always 
imagined that, in order to argue about the proletariat, 
they must make use of what they had learned from the 
history of middle-class development. They have never 
suspected, th efore, that a distinction should be drawn 
between the force that aims at authority, endeavouring 


to bring about an automatic obedience, and the violence 
that would smash that authority. According to them, 
the proletariat must acquire force just as the middle class 
acquired it, use it as the latter used it, and end finally by 
establishing a Socialist State which will replace the middle- 
class State. 

As the State formerly played a most important part 
in the revolutions which abolished the old economic 
systems, so it must again be the State which should abolish 
capitalism. The workers should therefore sacrifice every- 
thing to one end alone — that of putting into power men 
who promise them solemnly to ruin capitalism for the 
benefit of the people ; • that is how a Parliamentary 
Socialist party is formed. Former militant Socialists 
provided with modest jobs, middle-class people, educated, 
frivolous, and eager to be in the public eye, and Stock 
Exchange speculators imagine that a golden age might 
spring up for them as the result of a cautious — a very 
cautious — revolution, which would not seriously disturb 
the traditional State. Quite naturally, these future 
masters of the world harbour the thought of reproducing 
the history of middle-class force, and they are organising 
themselves so that they may be able to draw the greatest 
possible profit from this revolution. Quite a number of 
such people might find a place in the new hierarchy, and 
what Paul Leroy Beaulieu calls the *' Fourth Estate " 
would become really a lower middle class. ^ 

The whole future of democracy might easily depend 

1 In an article in the Radical (January 2, 1906), Ferdinand Buisson 
shows that those classes of workers who are more favoured at the present 
time will continue to rise above the others ; the miners, the railway 
workers, employees in the State factories or municipal services who are 
well organised form a " working-class aristocracy," which succeeds all 
the more easily because it has continually to discuss all kinds of affairs 
with corporative bodies who " stand for the recognition of the rights 
of man, national supremacy, and the authority of universal suffrage." 
Beneath this nonsense is to be found merely the recognition of the 
relationship existing between politicians and obsequious followers. 


on this lower middle class, which hopes to make use of 
the strength of the really proletarian organisations for 
its own great personal advantage.^ The pohticians 
believe that this class will sdways have peaceful tendencies, 
that it may be organised and discipUned, and that 
since the leaders of such sane syndicates understand 
equally with the politicians the action of the State, this 
class will form an excellent body of followers. They 
would like to make use of it to govern the proletariat ; 
it is for this reason that Ferdinand Buisson and Jaures 
are in favour of syndicates of the minor grades of civil 
servants, who, entering the Bourses du Travail, would 
inspire the proletariat with the idea of imitating their 
own feeble and peaceful attitude. 

The poHtical general strike concentrates the whole 
of this conception into one easily imderstood picture: 
it shows us how the State would lose nothing of its 
strength, how the transmission of power from one 
privileged class to another would take place, and how 
the mass of the producers would merely change masters. 
These new masters would very probably be less able than 
those of to-day ; they would make more flowery speeches 
than the capitalists, but there is every evidence that they 
would be much harder and much more insolent than their 

The new school approaches the question from quite 
another point of view : it cannot accept the idea that the 
historical mission of the proletariat is to imitate the 
middle class ; it cannot conceive that a revolution as 
vast as that which would abolish capitaUsm could be 
attempted for a trifling and doubtful result, for a change 
of masters, for the satisfaction of theorists, politicians, 

1 " A portion of the nation throwing in its lot with the proletariat 
to demand its just rights," says Maxime Leroy, in a book devoted to the 
defence of the S5aidicates o£ civil servants {Les Transformations de la 
puissance publique, p. 216). 


and speculators — all worshippers and exploiters of the 
State. It does not wish to restrict itself to the formulas 
of Marx ; although he gave no other theory than that of 
middle-class force, that, in its eyes, is no reason why it 
should confine itself to a scrupulous imitation of middle- 
class force. 

In the course of his revolutionary career, Marx was 
not always happily inspired, and too often he followed 
inspirations which belong to the past ; he even allowed 
from time to time a quantity of old rubbish which he 
found in the Utopists to creep into his writings. The 
new school does not in the least feel itself bound to admire 
the illusions, the faults, and the errors of the man who did 
so much to work out revolutionary ideas ; it endeavours 
to separate what disfigures the work of Marx from what 
will immortalise his name ; its attitude is thus the reverse 
of that of official Socialists, who admire especially in Marx 
that which is not Marxian. We shall therefore attach 
no importance whatever to the numerous extracts which 
may be quoted against us to prove that Marx often under- 
stood history as the politicians do. 

We know now the reason for his attitude : he did not 
know the distinction, which appears to us nowadays 
so obvious, between middle-class force and proletarian 
violence, because he did not move in circles which had 
acquired a satisfactory notion of the general strike.^ We 
now possess sufficient material to enable us to imderstand 
the Syndicalist strike as thoroughly as we do the political 
strike ; we know what differentiates the proletarian 
movement from the older middle-class movement ; we 
find in the attitude of the revolutionaries towards the 

* The inadequacy of, and the errors contained in Marx's work in 
respect to everything concerning the revolutionary organisation of 
the proletariat may be cited as memorable examples of that law which 
prevents us from thinking anything but that which has actual bases in 
life. Let us not confuse thought and imagination. 


State a means of elucidating ideas which were still very 
confused in Marx's mind. 

The method which has served us to mark the difference 
which exists between middle-class force and proletarian 
violence may also serve to solve many questions which 
crop up in the course of researches about the organisation 
of the proletariat. In comparing attempts to organise 
the Syndicalist strike, and attempts to organise the 
political strike, we may often judge what is good and 
what is bad, i.e. what is specifically socialistic and what 
has middle-class tendencies. 

Popular education, for example, seems to be wholly 
carried on in a middle-class spirit ; history shows us that 
the whole effort of capitalism has been to bring about the 
submission of the masses to the conditions of the capitalist 
economic system, so that society might become an organ- 
ism ; the whole revolutionary effort tends to create/r^^ w^«, 
but democratic rulers adopt as their mission the accom- 
plishment of the moral unity of France. This moral imity 
is the automatic discipline of the producers, who would 
doubtless be happy to work for the glory of their intel- 
lectual leaders. 

It may be said, too, that the greatest danger which 
threatens Syndicalism would be an attempt to imitate 
democracy ; it would be better for it to remain content 
for a time with weak and chaotic organisations rather than 
that it should fall beneath the sway of syndicates which 
would copy the political forms of the middle class. 

The revolutionary Syndicalists have never yet made 
that mistake, because those who seek to lead them into 
an imitation of middle-class methods happen to be adver- 
saries of the Syndicalist general strike, and have thus 
stood confessed as enemies. 



I. Observations of P. Bureau and of P. de Rousiers — The era of 
martyrs — Possibility of maintaining the cleavage with very 
little violence, thanks to a catastrophic myth. 

II. Old habits of brutality in schools and workshops — The dangerous 
classes — Indulgence for crimes of cunning — Informers. 

III. Law of 1884 passed to intimidate Conservatives — Part played 
by Millerand in the Waldeck-Rousseau ministry — Motives 
behind present ideas on arbitration. 

IV. Search for the sublime in morality — Proudhon — No moral 
development inTrade Unionism — The "sublime " in Germany 
and the catastrophic conception. 


There are so many legal precautions against violence, 
and our upbringing is directed towards so weakening our 
tendencies towards violence, that we are instinctively 
inclined to think that any act of violence is a manifestation 
of a return to barbarism. Peace has always been con- 
sidered the greatest of blessings and the essential condition 
of all material progress, and it is for this reason that 
industrial societies have so often been contrasted favour- 
ably with military ones. This last point of view explains 
why, almost uninterruptedly since the eighteenth century, 
economists have been in favour of strong central authori- 
ties, and have troubled little about political Hberties. 
Condorcet levels this reproach at the followers of Quesnay, 



and Napoleon III. had probably no greater admirer than 
Michel Chevalier.^ 

It may be questioned whether there is not a little 
stupidity in the admiration of our contemporaries for 
gentle methods. I see, in fact, that several authors, 
remarkable for their perspicacity and their interest in 
the ethical side of every question, do not seem to have 
the same fear of violence as our official professors. 

P. Bureau was extremely surprised to find in Norway 
a rural population which had remained profoundly 
Christian. The peasants, nevertheless, carried a dagger 
at their belt ; when a quarrel ended in a stabbing affray, 
the police enquiry generally came to nothing for lack of 
witnesses ready to come forward and give evidence. 

The author concludes thus : "In men, a soft and 
effeminate character is more to be feared than their 
feeling of independence, however exaggerated and brutal, 
and a stab given by a man who is virtuous in his morals, 
but violent, is a social evil less serious and more easily 
curable than the excessive profligacy of young men 
reputed to be more civilised." ^ 

I borrow a second example from P. de Rousiers, who, 
like P. Bureau, is a fervent CathoHc and interested 
especially in the moral side of all questions. He narrates 
how, towards i860, the country of Denver, the great 
mining centre of the Rocky Mountains, was cleared of the 
bandits who infested it ; the American magistracy being 
impotent, courageous citizens undertook the work. 
" Lynch law was frequently put into operation ; a man 
accused of murder or of theft might be arrested, con- 
demned and hanged in less than a quarter of an hour, if 

1 " One day Michel Chevalier came beaming into the editorial room 
of the louvnal des dibats. His first words were : ♦ I have achieved 
liberty ! ' Everybody was all agog ; he was asked to explain. He 
meant the liberty of the slaughter-houses " (Renan, Feuilles ditachies, 
p. 149). 

* P. Bureau, Le Paysan des fjords de Norwige, pp. 114 and 115. 


an energetic Vigilance Committee could get hold of him. 
The American who happens to be honest has one excellent 
habit — he does not allow himself to be crushed on the 
pretext that he is virtuous. A law-abiding man is not 
necessarily a craven, as is often the case with us ; on the 
contrary, he is convinced that his interests ought to be 
considered before those of an habitual criminal or of a 
gambler. Moreover, he possesses the necessary energy 
to resist, and the kind of life which he leads makes him 
capable of resisting effectively, even of taking the initiative 
and the responsibility of a serious step when circumstances 
demand it. . . . Such a man, placed in a new country, 
full of natural resources, wishing to take advantage of the 
riches it contains and to acquire a superior situation in 
life by his labour, will not hesitate to suppress, in the name 
of the higher interests he represents, the bandits who 
compromise the future of this country. That is why, 
twenty-five years ago at Denver, so many corpses were 
dangling above the little wooden bridge thrown across 
Cherry Creek." ^ 

This is a considered opinion of P. de Rousiers, for he 
returns elsewhere to this question. " I know," he says, 
" that lynch law is generally considered in France as a 
symptom of barbarism . . . ; but if honest virtuous 
people in Europe think thus, virtuous people in America 
think quite otherwise." ^ He highly approved of the 
Vigilance Committee of New Orleans which, in 1890, " to 
the great satisfaction of all virtuous people," hanged 
maffiosi acquitted by the jury.^ 

In Corsica, at the time when the vendetta was the regular 
means of supplying the deficiencies or correcting the action 
of a too halting justice, the people do not appear to have 

1 De Rousiers, La Vie americaine : ranches, fermes et usines, pp. 

* De Rousiers, La Vie amirioaine, VedMcation et la sociiU, p. 218. 
» De Rousiers, loc. cit. p. 221. 


been less moral than to-day. Before the French conquest, 
Kabylie had no other means of punishment but private 
vengeance, yet the Kabyles were not a bad people. 

It may be conceded to those in favour of mild methods 
that violence may hamper economic progress, and even, 
when it goes beyond a certain Umit, that it is a danger 
to morality. This concession cannot be used as an 
argument against the doctrine set forth here, because I 
consider violence only from the point of view of its 
influence on social theories. It is, in fact, certain that a 
great development of brutality accompanied by much 
blood-letting is quite imnecessary in order to induce the 
workers to look upon economic conflicts as the reduced 
facsimiles of the great battle which will decide the future. 
If a capitalist class is energetic, it is constantly affirming 
its determination to defend itself ; its frank and con- 
sistently reactionary attitude contributes at least as greatly 
as proletarian violence towards keeping distinct that 
cleavage between the classes which is the basis of all 

We may make use here of the great historical example 
provided by the persecutions which Christians were obUged 
to suffer during the first centuries. Modem authors have 
been so struck by the language of the Fathers of the 
Church, and by the details given in the Acts of the Martyrs, 
that they have generally imagined the Christians as out- 
laws whose blood was continuedly being spilt. The 
cleavage between the pagan world and the Christian 
world was extraordinarily well marked ; without this 
cleavage the latter would never have acquired all its 
characteristic features ; but this cleavage was maintained 
by a combination of circumstances very different from 
that formerly imagined. 

Nobody believes any longer that the Christians took 
refuge in subterranean quarries in order to escape the 


searches of the police ; the catacombs were dug out at 
great expense by communities with large resources at 
their disposal, under land belonging generally to powerful 
families which protected the new cult. Nobody has 
any doubt now that before the end of the first century 
Christianity had its followers among the Roman aristo- 
cracy ; "in the very ancient catacomb of Priscilla . . . 
has been found the family vault in which was buried from 
the first to the fourth century the Christian line of the 
Acilii/' ^ It seems also that the old belief that the number 
of the martyrdoms was very great must be abandoned. 

Renan still asserted that the literature of martyrdom 
should be taken seriously. *' The details of the Acts of 
the Martyrs," he said, ** may be false for the most part ; 
the dreadful picture which they unroll before us was 
nevertheless a reality. The true nature of this terrible 
struggle has often been misconceived, but its seriousness 
has not been exaggerated." ^ The researches of Hamack 
lead to quite another conclusion : the language of the 
Christian authors was entirely disproportionate to the 
actual importance of the persecutions ; there were very 
few martyrs before the middle of the third century. 
Tertullian is the writer who has most strongly indicated 
the horror which the new rehgion felt for its persecutors, 
and yet here is what Harnack says : "If, with the help 
of the works of Tertullian, we consider Carthage and 
Northern Africa we shall find that before the year 180 
there was in those regions no case of martyrdom, and that 
from that year to the death of Tertullian (after 220), and 
adding Numidia and the Mauritanias, scarcely more than 
two dozen could be counted." ^ It must be remembered 
that at that time there was in Africa a rather large number 
of Montanists. who extolled the glory of martyrdom, 

^ p. Allard, Dix lepons sur le martyre, p. 171. 
* Renan, i.glise chritienne, p. 137. 
> P. Allard, op. cit. p. 137. 


and denied that any one had the right to fly from 

P. Allard combats Hamack's proposition with argu- 
ments which seem to me somewhat weak.^ He is unable 
to understand the enormous difference which probably 
exists between the reality of the persecutions and the 
conceptions which the persecuted formed of them. " The 
Christians," says the German professor, *' were able to 
complain of being persecuted flocks, and yet such persecu- 
tion was exceptional ; they were able to look upon them- 
selves as models of heroism, and yet they were rarely put 
to the proof; and I call attention to the end of this 
sentence : " They were able to place themselves above 
the grandeurs of the world, and yet at the same time to 
make themselves more and more at home in it." * 

There is something paradoxical at first sight in the 
situation of the Church, which had its followers in the 
upper classes, who were obliged to make many concessions 
to custom, and who yet could hold beliefs based on the 
idea of an absolute cleavage. The inscriptions on the 
catacomb of Priscilla prove " the continuance of the faith 
through a series of generations of the Acilii, among whom 
were to be found not only consuls and magistrates of the 
highest order, but also priests, priestesses, even children, 
members of illustrious idolatrous colleges, reserved by 
privilege for patricians and their sons." ^ If the Christian 
system of ideas had been rigorously based on actual facts, 
such a paradox would have been impossible. 

The statistics of persecutions therefore play no great 
part in this question ; what was of much greater import- 
ance than the frequency of the torments were the remark- 
able occurrences which took place during the scenes of 

* Revue des questions historiques, July 1905. 

* P. Allard, op. cit. p. 142. Cf >vhat I have said in Le Systiihr 
hisiorique de Renan, pp. 312-315. 

' P. Allard, op. cit. p. 206. 


martyrdom. The Christian ideology was based on these 
rather rare but very heroic events ; there was no 
necessity for the martyrdoms to be numerous in order 
to prove, by the test of experience, the absolute truth of 
the new religion and the absolute error of the old, to 
establish thus that there were two incompatible ways, 
and to make it clear that the reign of evil would come to 
an end. " In spite of the small number of martyrs,*' 
says Hamack, " we may estimate at its true value the 
courage needed to become a Christian and to live as one. 
Above all else we ought to praise the conviction of the 
martyr whom a word or a gesture could save, and who 
preferred death to such freedom." ^ Contemporaries 
who saw in martyrdom a judicial proof ^ testifying to the 
honour of Christ,^ drew from these facts quite other 
conclusions than those which a modem historian, whose 
mind runs in modem grooves, might draw from them ; 
no ideology was ever more remote from the facts than 
that of the early Christians. 

The Roman administration dealt very severely with 
any one who showed a tendency to disturb the public 
peace, especially with any accused person who defied its 
majesty. In striking down from time to time a few 
Christians who had been denounced to it (for reasons 
which have generally remained hidden from us) it did not 
think that it was accomplishing an act which would ever 
interest posterity ; it seems that the general pubhc itself 
hardly ever took any great notice of these punishments ; 
and this explains why the persecutions left scarcely any 
trace on pagan literature. The pagans had no reason 
to attach to martyrdom the extraordinary importance 
which the faithful and those who already sympathised 
wdth them attached to it. 

This ideology would certainly not have been formed 

1 p. AUard, op. cit. p. 142. 

* G. Sorel, Le Systime historique de Renan, pp. 33'5-336. 


in so paradoxical a manner had it not been for the firm 
beUef that people had in the catastrophes described by the 
numerous apocalypses which were composed at the end of 
the first century and at the beginning of the second ; it 
was the conviction of all that the world was to be delivered 
up completely to the reign of evil, and that Christ would 
then come and give the final victory to His elect. Any 
case of persecution borrowed from the mythology of the 
Antichrist something of its dread dramatic character; 
instead of being valued on its actual importance as a 
misfortune which had befallen a few individuals, a lesson 
for the community, or a temporary check on propaganda, 
it became an incident of the war carried on by Satan, 
prince of this world, who was soon to reveal his Anti- 
christ. Thus the cleavage sprang at the same time from 
the persecutions and from the feverish expectation of a 
decisive battle. When Christianity had developed suffi- 
ciently, the apocalyptic hterature ceased to be cultivated 
to any extent ; although the root idea contained therein 
still continued to exercise its influence, the Acts of the 
Martyrs were drawn up in such a way that they might 
excite the same feelings that the apocalypses excited; 
it may be said that they replaced these : ^ we sometimes 
find in the literature of the persecutions, set down as 
clearly as in the apocalypses, the horror which the faithful 
felt for the ministers of Satan who persecuted them.^ 

It is possible, therefore, to conceive Socialism as being 
perfectly revolutionary, although there may only be a 
few short conflicts, provided that these have strength 
enough to evoke the idea of the general strike : all the 

^ It is probable that the first ChrisLian generation had no clear idea 
of the possibility of replacing the apocalypses imitated from Jewish 
literature by the Acts of the Martyrs ; this would explain why we 
possess no accounts prior to the year 155 (letter of Smx-rniotes telling 
of the death of Saint Polycarpe) , and why all memory of a certain number 
of very ancient Roman martyrs has been lost. 

' Marc AurHe, p. 500. 


events of the conflict will then appear under a magnified 
form, and the idea of catastrophe being maintained, the 
cleavage will be perfect. Thus one objection often urged 
against revolutionary Socialism may be set aside — there 
is no danger of civilisation succumbing under the con- 
sequences of a development of brutality, since the idea 
of the general strike may foster the notion of the class 
war by means of incidents which would appear to middle- 
class historians as of small importance. 

When the governing classes, no longer daring to govern, 
are ashamed of their privileged situation, are eager to 
make advances to their enemies, and proclaim their horror 
of all cleavage in society, it becomes much more difficult 
to maintain in the minds of the proletariat this idea of 
cleavage which without Socialism cannot fulfil its historical 
role. So much the better, declare the worthy progressives ; 
we may then hope that the future of the world will not 
be left in the hands of brutes who do not even respect the 
State, who laugh at the lofty ideas of the middle class, 
and who have no more admiration for the professional 
expounders of lofty thought than for priests. Let us 
therefore do more and more every day for the disinherited, 
say these gentlemen ; let us show ourselves more Christian, 
more philanthropic, or more democratic (according to the 
temperament of each) ; let us unite for the accomplish- 
ment of social duty. We shall thus get the better of these 
dreadful Socialists, who think it possible to destroy the 
prestige of the Intellectuals now that the Intellectuals 
have destroyed that of the Church. As a matter of fact, 
these cunning moral combinations have failed ; it is not 
difficult to see why. 

The specious reasoning of these gentlemen — the 
pontiffs of " social duty ** — supposes that violence cannot 
increase, and may even diminish in proportion a.s the 
Intellectuals unbend to the masses and make platitudes 


and grimaces in honour of the union of the classes. 
Unfortunately for these great thinkers, things do not 
happen in this way ; violence does not diminish in the 
proportion that it should diminish according to the 
principles of advanced sociology. There are, in fact. 
Socialist scoundrels, who, profiting by middle -class 
cowardice, entice the masses into a movement which 
every day becomes less like that which ought to result 
from the sacrifices consented to by the middle class in 
order to obtain peace. If they dared, the sociologists 
would declare that the Socialists cheat and use unfair 
methods, so httle do the facts come up to their expectations. 
However, it was only to be expected that the Socialists 
would not allow themselves to be beaten without having 
used all the resources which the situation offered them. 
People who have devoted their life to a cause which they 
identify with the regeneration of the world, could not 
hesitate to make use of any weapon which might serve 
to develop to a greater degree the spirit of the class war, 
seeing that greater efforts were being made to suppress 
it. Existing social conditions favour the production of 
an infinite number of acts of violence, and there has been 
no hesitation in urging the workers not to refrain from 
brutality when this might do them service. Philan- 
thropic members of the middle class having given a kindly 
reception to members of the syndicates who were willing 
to come and discuss matters with them, in the hope that 
these workmen, proud of their aristocratic acquaintances, 
would give peaceful advice to their comrades, it is not to 
be wondered their fellow-workmen soon suspected them 
of treachery when they became upholders of ** social 
reform." Finally, and this is the most remarkable fact 
in the whole business, anti-patriotism becomes an essential 
element of the Syndicalist programme.^ 

^ As we consider everything from the historical point of view, it is 
of small importance to know what reasons were actually in the mind of 


The introduction of anti-patriotism into the working- 
class movement is all the more remarkable because it 
came just when the Government was about to put its 
theories about the solidarity of the classes into practice. 
It was in vain that Leon Bourgeois approached the 
proletariat with particularly amiable airs and graces ; in 
vain that he assured the workers that capitalist society 
was one great family, and that the poor had a right to 
share in the general riches ; he maintained that the whole 
of contemporary legislation was directed towards the 
appUcation of the principles of solidarity ; the proletariat 
repUed to him by denying the social compact in the most 
brutal fashion — by denying the duty of patriotism. At 
the moment when it seemed that a means of suppressing 
the class war had been found, behold, it springs up again 
in a particularly displeasing form.^ 

Thus all the efforts of the worthy progressives only 
brought about results in fiat contradiction with their 
aims ; it is enough to make one despair of sociology I 
If they had any common sense, and if they really desired 
to protect society against an increase of brutality, they 
would not drive the Socialists into the necessity of adopt- 
ing the tactics which are forced on them to-day ; they 
would remain quiet instead of devoting themselves to 
*' social duty " ; they would bless the propagandists of 
the general strike, who, as a matter of fact, endeavour 
to render the maintenance of Socialism compatible with the 
minimum of brutality. But these well-intentioned people 
are not blessed with common sense ; and they have yet to 
suffer many blows, many humiliations, aoid many losses 

the first apostles of anti-patriotism ; reasons of this kind are almost 
never the right ones ; the essential thing is that for the revolutionary 
workers anti-patriotism appears an inseparable part of Socialism. 

^ This propaganda produced results which went far beyond the 
expectations of its promoters, and which would be inexplicable without 
the revolutionary idea. 



of money, before they decide to allow Socialism to follow 
its own course. 


We must now carry our investigations farther, and 
enquire what are the motives behind the great aversion 
felt by moralists for acts of violence ; a very brief simimary 
of a few very curious changes which have taken place in 
the manners of the working classes is first of all indis- 

A. I observe, in the first place, that nothing is more 
remarkable than the change which has taken place in 
the methods of bringing up children ; formerly it was 
believed that the rod was the most necessary instnunent 
of the schoolmaster ; nowadays corporal punishments 
have disappeared from our public elementary schools. 
I believe that the competition which the latter had to 
maintain against the Church schools played a very great 
part in this progress ; the Brothers applied the old 
principles of clerical pedagogy with extreme severity ; 
and these, as is well known, involve an excessive amount 
of corporal punishment inflicted for the purpose of taming 
the demon who prompted so many of the child's bad 
habits.^ The Government was inteUigent enough to set 
up in opposition to this barbarous system a milder form 
of education which brought it a great deal of sympathy ; 
it is not at all improbable that the severity of clerical 
punishments is largely responsible for the present tumult 
of hatred against which the Church is struggling with 
such difficulty. In 1901 I wrote : *' If (the Church) were 
well advised, it would suppress entirely that part of its 
activities which is devoted to children ; it would do away 

1 Cf. Renan, Histoire du peuple d'Jsrael, tome iv. pp. 289 and 296 ; 
Y. Guyot, La Morale, pp. 212-215 ; Alphonse Daudet, Numa Roumestan, 
chap. iv. 


with its schools and workshops ; it would thus do away 
with the principal sources of anti-clericalism : far from 
showing any desire to adopt this course, it seems to be its 
intention to develop these establishments still further, and 
thus it is laying up for itself still further opportunities for 
displays of popular hatred for the clergy." ^ What has 
happened since 1901 surpasses my forecast. 

In factories and workshops customs of great brutality 
formerly existed, especially in those where it was necessary 
to employ men of superior strength, to whom was given 
the name of "grosses culottes " (big breeches) ; in the 
end these men managed to get entrusted with the task 
of engaging other men, because " any individual taken 
on by others was subjected to an infinite number of 
humiUations and insults " ; the man who wished to enter 
their workshop had to buy them drink, and on the follow- 
ing day to treat all his fellow- workers. " The notorious 
Whens it to he ? (Quand est-ce ?) ^ would be started ; every- 
body gets tipsy. . . . When's it to he ? is the devourer of 
savings ; in a workshop where When's it to he ? is the 
custom, you must stand your turn or beware." Denis 
Poulot, from whom I borrow these details, observes that 
machinery did away with the prestige of the grosses 
culottes, who were scarcely more than a memory when he 
wrote in 1870.^ 

The manners of the compagnonnages * (a kind of trade 

* G. Sorel, Essai sur I'iglise et I'etat, p. 63. 

« Quand est-ce ? This was the question addressed to the new- 
comer in a workshop, to remind him that according to custom he must 
pay for drinks all round — " Pay your footing." 

» Denis Poulot, Le Sublime, pp. 150-153. I quote from the edition 
of 1887. This author says that the grosses culottes very much hampered 
progress in the forges. 

* The compagnonnages were very ancient workmen's associations, 
whose principal purpose was to enable carpenters, joiners, locksmiths, 
farriers, and others, to make a circular tour round France, in order to 
learn their trades thoroughly. In the towns on this circuit there was 
an hotel kept bj' the Mere des • compagnons ; the newly arrived 


union) were for a long time remarkable for their brutality. 
Before 1840 there were constant brawls, often ending in 
bloodshed, between groups with different rites. Martin 
Saint Leon, in his book oh the compagnonnage, gives 
extracts from really barbarous songs. ^ Initiation into 
the lodge was accompanied by the severest tests ; young 
men were treated as if they were pariahs in the " Devoirs 
de Jacques et de Suhise " : ^ " Compagnons (carpenters) 
have been known," says Perdiguier, " to call themselves 
the Scourge of the Foxes (candidates for admission), the 
Terror of the Foxes. ... In the provinces, a * fox ' 
rarely works in the towns ; he is himted back, as they 
say, into the brushwood." ' There were many secessions 
when the tyranny of the companions came into opposition 
with the more liberal habits which prevailed in society. 
When the workers were no longer in need of protection, 
especially for the purpose of j&nding work, they were no 
longer so willing to submit to the demands which had 
formerly seemed to be of little consequence in comparison 
with the advantages of the compagnonnage. The struggle 
for work more than once brought candidates into opposi- 
tion with companions who wished to reserve certain 
privileges.* We might find still other reasons to explain 

workman was received there and the older men found him work. The 
compagnonnages are now in a state of decay. 

1 Martin Saint-Leon, Le Compagnonnage, pp. 115, 125, 270-273, 

* Each trade possessed often several rjval associations of workmen, 
which often engaged each other in bloody combats. Each association 
was called a Devoir. What was intended by de Jacques and de Subisf 
has long been forgotten. They are traditional words indicating 
the rules, and so by extension, the associations which follow these 

» Martin Saint-Leon, op. cit. p. 97. Cf. pp. 91-92, p. 107. 

* In 1823, the companion joiners claimed La Rochelle as theirs, a 
town which they had for a long time neglected as being of too little 
importance ; they had previously only stopped at Nantes and Bordeaux 
(Martin Saint-Leon, op. cit. p. 103). L' Union des travailleurs du tour 
de France was formed in 1830 to 1832 as a rival organisation to the 


the decline of an institution which, while rendering many 
important services, had contributed very much to main- 
taining the idea of brutahty. 

Everybody agrees that the disappearance of these old 
brutalities is an excellent thing. From this opinion it was 
so easy to pass to the idea that all violence is an evil, that 
this step was bound to have been taken ; and, in fact, 
the great mass of the people, who are not accustomed to 
thinking, have come to this conclusion, which is accepted 
nowadays as a dogma by the bleating herd of moralists. 
They have not asked themselves what there is in brutahty 
which is reprehensible. 

When we no longer remain content with current 
stupidity we discover that our ideas about the disappear- 
ance of violence depend much more on a very important 
transformation which has taken place in the criminal 
world than on ethical principles. I shall endeavour to 
prove this. 

B. Middle-class scientists are very chary of touching 
on anything relating to the dangerous classes ; ^ that is 
one of the reasons why their observations on the history 
of morals always remain superficial ; it is not very 
difficult to see that it is a knowledge of these classes 
which alone enables us to penetrate the mysteries of the 
moral thought of peoples. 

The dangerous classes of past times practised the 
simplest form of offence, that which was nearest to hand, 
that which is nowadays left to groups of young scoundrels 
without experience and without judgment. Offences of 
brutahty seem to us nowadays something abnormal ; so 

cotnpagnonnage, following the refusals with which the latter had met a 
few rather modest demands for reforms presented by the candidates 
for election (pp. 108-116, 126, 131). 

1 On March 30, 1906, Monis said in the Senate : " We cannot write 
in a legal text that prostitution exists in France for both sexes." 


much so, that when the brutaUty has been great we often 
ask ourselves whether the culprit is in possession of all 
his senses. This transformation has evidently not come 
about because criminals have become moral, but because 
they have changed their method of procedure to suit 
the new economic conditions, as we shall see farther on. 
This change has had the greatest influence on popular 

We all know that by using brutality, associations of 
criminals manage to maintain excellent discipline among 
themselves. When we see a child ill-treated we instinc- 
tively suppose that its parents have criminal habits. The 
methods used by the old schoolmasters, which the ecclesi- 
astical houses persist in preserving, are those of vagabonds 
who steal children to make clever acrobats or interesting 
beggars of them. Everything which reminds us of the 
habits of dangerous classes of former times is extremely 
odious to us. 

There is a tendency for the old ferocity to be replaced 
by cunning, and many sociologists believe that this is a 
real progress. Some philosophers who are not in the habit 
of following the opinions of the herd, do not see exactly 
how this constitutes progress, from the point of view of 
morals : '* If we are revolted by the cruelty, by the 
brutality of past times," says Hartmann, ** it must not 
be forgotten that uprightness, sincerity, a lively sentiment 
of justice, pious respect before holiness of morals char- 
acterised the ancient peoples ; while nowadays we see 
predominant lies, duplicity, treachery, the spirit of 
chicane, the contempt for property, disdain for instinctive 
probity and legitimate customs — the value of which is 
not even understood.^ Robbery, deceit, and fraud 

* Hartmann here bases his statements on the authority of the 
English naturalist Wallace, who has greatly praised the simplicity of 
life among the Malays ; there must surely be a considerable element of 
exaggeration in this praise, although other travellers have made similar 
observations about some of the tribes of Sumatra. Hartmann wishes 


increase in spite of legal repression more rapidly than 
brutal and violent crimes, like pillage, murder, and rape, 
etc., decrease. Egoism of the basest kind shamelessly 
breaks the sacred bonds of the family and friendship 
in every case in which these oppose its desires." ^ 

At the present time money losses are generally looked 
upon as accidents to which we are constantly exposed 
and easily made good again, while bodily accidents are 
not so easily reparable. Fraud is therefore regarded as 
infinitely less serious than brutality ; criminals benefit 
from this change which has come about in legal sentences. 

Our penal code was drawn up at a time when the citizen 
was pictured as a rural proprietor occupied solely with 
the administration of his property, as a good family man, 
saving to secure an honourable position for his children ; 
large fortunes made in business, in politics, or by specula- 
tion were rare and were looked on as real monstrosities ; 
the defence of the savings of the middle classes was one 
of the first concerns of the legislator. The previous 
judicial system had been still more severe in the punish- 
ment of fraud, for a royal declaration of August 5, 1725, 
punished a fraudulent bankrupt with death ; it would 
be difiicult to imagine anything further removed from our 
customs. We are now inclined to consider that offences 
of this sort can, as a rule, only be committed as the result 
of the imprudence of the victims, and that it is only 
exceptionally that they deserve severe penalties ; we, on 
the contrary, content ourselves with light punishment. 

In a rich community where business is on a very large 
scale, and in which everybody is wide awake in defence 
of his own interests, as in America, crimes of fraud never 
have the same consequences as in a community which is 
forced to practise rigid economy ; as a matter of fact, 

to show that there is no progress towards happiness, and this pre- 
occupation leads him to exaggerate the happiness of the ancients. 
* Hartmann, Philosophy of the Unconscious, French trans., pp. 464-465. 


these crimes seldom cause a serious and lasting disturbance 
in the economic system ; it is for this reason that Americans 
put up with the excesses of their politicians and financiers 
with so little complaint. P. de Rousiers compares the 
American to the captain of a ship who, during a dangerous 
voyage, has no time to look after his thieving cook. 
" When you point out to Americans that they are being 
robbed by their politicians, they usually reply, ' Of course 
we are quite aware of that ! But as long as business is 
good and politicians do not get in the way, it will not be 
very difficult for them to escape the punishment they 
deserve.' " * 

In Europe also, since it has become easy to gain money, 
ideas, analogous to those current in America, have spread 
among us. Great company promoters have been able to 
escape pimishment because in their hour of success they 
were clever enough to make friends in all circles. We 
have finally come to believe that it would be extremely 
unjust to condemn bankrupt merchants and lawyers who 
retire ruined after moderate catastrophes, while the princes 
of financial swindling continue to lead gay lives. Gradu- 
ally the new industrial system has created a new and 
extraordinary indulgence for all crimes of fraud in the 
great capitalist countries.* 

In those countries where the old parsimonious and non- 
speculative family economy still prevails, the relative 
estimation of acts of fraud and acts of brutality has not 
followed the same evolution as in America, England, and 
France ; this is why Germany has preserved so many of 
the customs of former times,^ and does not feel the same 

^ De Rousiers, La Vie amSricaine : I' Education et la socUU, p. 217. 

« Several small countries have adopted these ideas, thinking by 
such imitation to reach the greatness of the large countries. 

" It must be noticed that in Germany there are so many Jews in 
the world of speculation that American ideas do not spread very easily. 
The majority look upon the speculator as a foreigner who is robbing 
the nation. 


horror that we do for brutal punishments ; these never 
seem to them, as they do to us, only suitable to the most 
dangerous classes. 

Many philosophers have protested against this mitiga- 
tion of sentences ; after what we have related earlier about 
Hartmann, we shall expect to meet him among those who 
protest. " We are already," he says, " approaching the 
time when theft and lying condemned by law will be 
despised as vulgar errors, as gross clumsiness, by the clever 
cheats who know how to preserve the letter of the law 
while infringing the rights of other people. For my part, 
I would much rather live amongst the ancient Germans, 
at the risk of being killed on occasion, than be obliged, as 
I am in modem cities, to look on every man as a swindler 
or a rogue imless I have evident proofs of his honesty." ^ 
Hartmann takes no account of economic conditions ; he 
argues from an entirely personal point of view, and never 
looks at what goes on roimd him. Nobody to-day wants 
to run the risk of being slain by ancient Germans ; fraud 
or a theft are very easily reparable. 

C. Finally, in order to get to the heart of contemporary 
thought on this matter, it is necessary to examine the way 
in which the public judges the relations existing between 
the State and the criminal associations. Such relations 
have always existed ; these associations, after having 
practised violence, have ended by employing craft alone, 
or at least their acts of violence have become somewhat 

Nowadays we should think it very strange if the 
magistrates were to put themselves at the head of armed 
bands, as they did in Rome during the last years of the 
Republic. In the course of the Zola trial, the Anti-Semites 
recruited bands of paid demonstrators, who were com- 
missioned to manifest patriotic indignation ; the Govem- 

* Haxtmann, loc. cit., p. 465. 


ment of M61ine protected these antics, which for some 
months had considerable success and helped considerably 
in hindering a fair revision of the sentence on Dreyfus. 

I believe that I am not mistaken in saying that these 
tactics of the partisans of the Church have been the 
principal cause of all the measures directed against 
Catholicism since 1901 ; the middle-class liberals would 
never have accepted these measures if they had not still 
been under the influence of the fear they had felt during 
the Dreyfus affair. The chief argument which Clemenceau 
used to stir up his followers to fight against the Church 
was that of fear ; he never ceased to denounce the danger 
which the Republic ran in the continued existence of the 
Romish faction ; the laws about the congregations, about 
education and the administration of the churches were 
made with the object of preventing the Catholic party 
again taking up its former warlike attitude, which Anatol 
France so often compared to that of the League ; ^ they 
were laws inspired by fear. Many Conservatives felt this 
so strongly that they regarded with displeasure the 
resistance recently opposed to the inventories of churches ; 
they considered that the employment of bands of pious 
apaches would make the middle classes still more hostile 
to their cause. ^ It was not a little surprising to see 
Brunetiere, who had been one of the admirers of the anti- 
Dreyfus apaches, advise submission ; this was because 
experience had enlightened him as to the consequences 
of violence. 

1 [The League was a political organisation directed by the partisans 
of the Due de Guise against the Protestants ; it resisted Henri IV. for 
a considerable time. — Trans. Note.] 

« At a meeting of the Municipal Council of Paris on March 26, 1906, 
the Prefect of Police said that the resistance was organised by a com- 
mittee sitting at 86. rue de Richelieu, which hired pious apaches at 
between three and four francs a day. He asserted that fifty-two 
Parisian cures had promised him either to facilitate the inventories or 
to be content with a merely passive resistance. He accused the Catholic 
politicians of having forced the hands of the clergy. 


Associations which work by craft provoke no such 
reactions in the public ; in the time of the " clerical 
republic," ^ the society of Saint Vincent de Paul was an 
excellent centre of surveillance over officials of every 
order and grade ; it is not surprising, then, that free- 
masonry has been able to render services to the Radical 
Government of exactly the same kind as those which 
Catholic philanthropy was able to render to former 
Governments. The history of recent spying scandals has 
shown very plainly what the point of view of the country 
actually was. 

When the nationalists obtained possession of the docu- 
ments containing information about officers of the army, 
which had been compiled by the dignitaries of the masonic 
lodges, they believed that their opponents were lost ; 
the panic which prevailed in the Radical camp for some 
time seemed to justify their hopes, but before long the 
democracy showed only derision for what they called the 
" petty virtue " of those who publicly denounced the 
methods of General Andr^ and his accomplices. In those 
difficult days Henry Berenger showed that he understood 
admirably the ethical standards of his contemporaries ; 
he did not hesitate to approve of what he called the 
" legitimate supervision of the governing classes exercised 
by the organisations of the vanguard " ; he denounced 
the cowardice of the Government which had " allowed 
those who had undertaken the difficult task of opposing 
the military caste and the Roman Church, of examining 
and denouncing them, to be branded as informers " {Action, 
Oct. 31, 1904) ; he loaded with insults the few Dreyfusards 
who dared to show their indignation ; the attitude of 
Joseph Reinach appeared particularly scandalous to him ; 
in his opinion the latter should have felt himself extremely 
honoured by being tolerated in the ** League of the Rights 
of Man," which had decided at last to lead " the good 

1 \I.e. in the time when MacMahon was President. — Trans. Note.] 


fight for the defence of rights of the citizen, sacrificed too 
long to those of one man " [Action, Dec. 12, 1904). Finally, 
a law of amnesty was voted declaring that no one wanted 
to hear anything more of these trifles. 

There was some opposition in the provinces,* but was 
it very serious ? I am inclined to think not, when I read 
the documents published by Peguy in the ninth number 
of the sixth series of his Cahiers de la quinzaine. Several 
people, accustomed to speaking a verbose, sonorous, and 
nonsensical language, doubtless found themselves a Uttle 
imcomfortable under the smiles of the leading grocers and 
eminent chemists who constituted the ^lite of the lesimed 
and musical societies before which they had been 
accustomed to hold forth on Justice, Truth, and Light. 
They found it necessary to adopt a stoical attitude. 

Could anything be finer than this passage from a letter 
of Professor Bougie, an eminent doctor of social science, 
which I find on page 13 : "I am very happy to learn that 
at last the League is going to speak. Its silence astonishes 
and frightens us." He must be a man who is easily 
astonished and frightened ! Francis de Pressens6 also 
suffered some anxiety of mind — he is a specialist in that 
kind of thing — but his feelings were of a very distinguished 
kind, as is only proper for an aristocratic Socialist ; he 
was afraid that democracy was threatened with a new 
guillotine seche,^ resembling that which had done so 
much harm to virtuous democrats during the Panama 
scandal.^ When he saw that the public quietly accepted 

* The people in the provinces are not, as a matter of fact, so 
accustomed as the Parisians are to indulgence towards non-violent 
trickery and brigandage. 

" [" Dry guillotine," popular expression meaning persecution — Trans.] 

* Cahiers de la quinzaine 9th of the Vlth series, p. 9. F. de Pressensfe 
was at the time of the Panama affair H^brard's principal clerk ; we 
know that the latter was one of the principal beneficiaries from the 
Panama booty, but that has not injured his position in the eyes of 
the austere Huguenots ; the Temps continues to be the organ of moderate 
democracy and of the ministers of the Gospel. 


the complicity of the Government with a philanthropic 
association which had turned into a criminal association, 
he hurled his avenging thunders against the protestors. 
Among the most comical of these protestors I pick 
out a political pastor of St-Etienne called I.. Comte. He 
wrote, in the extraordinary language employed by the 
members of the League of the Rights of Man : " I had 
hoped that the [Dreyfus] affair would have definitely 
cured us of the moral malaria from which we suffer, and 
that it would have cleansed the republican conscience of the 
clerical virus with which it was impregnated. It has done 
nothing. We are more clerical than ever." ^ Accordingly 
this austere man remained in the League I Protestant 
and middle-class logic ! It is always possible, you see, that 
the League might one of these days be able to render some 
small service to the deserving ministers of the Gospel. 

I have insisted rather lengthily on these grotesque 
incidents because they seem to me to characterise very 
aptly the moral ideas of the people who claim to lead us. 
Henceforth it must be taken for granted that politico- 
criminal associations which work by craft have a recog- 
nised place in any democracy that has attained its maturity. 
P. de Rousiers believes that America will one day cure 
itself of the evils which result from the guilty manoeuvres 
of its politicians. Ostrogorski, after making a long and 
minute inquiry into " Democracy, and the organisation 
of political parties,*' believes that he has found remedies 
which will enable modem states to free themselves 
from exploitation by political parties. These are platonic 
vows ; no historical experience justifies the hope that a 
democracy can be made to work in a capitalist country, 
without the criminal abuses experienced everywhere now- 
adays. When Rousseau demanded that the democracy 
should not tolerate the existence in its midst of any private 
association, he reasoned from his knowledge of the republics 

^ Cahiers de la quimaine, loc. cit. p. 13. 


of the Middle Ages ; he knew that part of history better 
than his contemporaries did, and was struck with the 
enormous part played at that time by the politico- 
criminal associations ; he asserted the impossibiUty of 
reconciling a rational democracy with the existence of 
such forces, but we ought to learn from experience that 
there is no way of bringing about their disappearance.^ 


The preceding explanations enable us to understand 
the ideas about the proper function of the worker's 
syndicates formed by the enlightened democrats and the 
worthy progressives. Waldeck-Rousseau has often been 
congratulated on having carried the law on syndicates in 
1884. In order to give an account of what was expected 
from this law we must recall the situation of France at 
that epoch. Severe financial embarrassments had com- 
pelled the Government to sign agreements with the rail- 
way companies which the Radicals denounced as acts of 
brigandage ; the colonial policy gave opportunities for 
extremely violent attacks and was thoroughly unpopular \^ 
the discontent which a few years later took the form of 
Boulangism was already very marked, and in the elections 
of 1885 very nearly gave a majority to the Conservatives. 

Waldeck-Rousseau, without being a very profound seer, 
was yet sharp enough to understand the danger which 
might threaten the opportunist republic, and C5mical 
enough to look for a means of defence in a politico- 

^ Rousseau, stating the question in an abstract way, appeared to 
condemn every kind of association, and our Governments for a long time 
used his authority to subject every association to authority. 

* In his Morale, published in 1883, Y. Guyot violently attacks this 
policy. " In spite of the disastrous experiences [of two centuries], we 
are taking Tunisia, we are on the point of going to Egypt, we are 
setting out for Tonkin, we dream of the conquest of Central Africa ' ' 
(p. 339). 


criminal association capable of checkmating the Con- 

At the time of the Empire the Government had tried 
to manipulate the benefit societies in such a way as to 
control the employes and a section of the artisans. Later 
on, it believed it might be possible to find, in the work- 
men's associations, a weapon with which it might be 
capable of ruining the authority which the Liberal party 
had with the people, and terrorising the rich classes, 
who had obstinately opposed the Government since 1863. 
Waldeck-Rousseau was inspired by these examples and 
hoped to organise among the workmen a hierarchy under 
the direction of the police.^ 

In a circular of August 25, 1884, Waldeck-Rousseau 
explained to the prefects that they ought not to confine 
themselves to their too limited function of enforcing 
respect for the law ; they must stimulate the spirit of 
association and " smooth away the difficulties which were 
bound to arise from inexperience and lack of practice in 
this new liberty," their task would be so much the more 
useful and important if they succeeded in inspiring greater 
confidence in the workmen ; in diplomatic terms the 
Minister advised them to undertake the moral leadership 
of the Syndicalist movement.^ ** Although the Govern- 
ment is not obliged by the law of 1884 to take any part 
in the search for the solutions of the great economic and 
social problems, it cannot be indifferent to them, and I 
am convinced that it is its duty to participate and to put 
its services and zeal at the disposal of all the parties 

* I have pointed this out in the Ere nouvelle, March 1894, p. 339. 

' According to the Sociahst deputy, Marius Devize, the Prefect du 
Gard undertook this leadership of the Syndicahst movement under the 
minister Combes {Etudes socialistes, p. 323). I find in the France du 
Sud-Ouest (January 25, 1904) a notice announcing that the Prefect of 
La Manche, delegated by the Government, together with the under- 
prefect, the mayor, and the municipality, officially inaugurated the 
Bourse du Travail at Cherbourg. 


concerned." It will be necessary to act with a great deal 
of prudence so as " not to excite mistrust," to show the 
workmen's associations how very much the Government 
interests itself in their development, and to advise them 
" when they make appHcations." The prefects must 
prepare themselves for " this role of counsellor and 
energetic collaborator by a thorough study of legislation, 
and of the similar organisations which exist in France and 

In 1884 the Government did not in the least foresee 
that the sjmdicates might participate in a great revolu- 
tionary agitation, and the circular spoke with a certain 
irony of " the hypothetical peril of an anti-social federa- 
tion of the whole of the workers." Nowadays one is 
very tempted to smile at the ingenuousness of the man 
who has so often been represented to us as the prince of 
cunning ; but to account for his illusions it is necessary 
to go back to the writings of the democrats of that period. 
In 1887, in the preface to the third edition of Sublime, 
Denis Poulot, an experienced manufacturer, former 
mayor of the nth arrondissement and a follower of 
Gambetta, said that the syndicates would kill strikes ; 
he beUeved that the revolutionaries had no serious 
influence on the organised workmen, and he saw in the 
primary schools a sure means of bringing about the dis- 
appearance of Socialism ; like nearly all the opportunists 
of that time, he was much more preoccupied with blacks 
than with reds} Yves Guyot himself does not seem to have 
had much more insight than Waldeck-Rousseau, because 
in his Morale (1883) he considered collectivism to be 
merely a word, he denounced the existing legislation 
which " aims at hindering the organisation of workmen 
for the sale of their labour at the highest possible price 
and for the discussion of their interests," and he expected 
that what the syndicates would lead to would be the 

* Blacks and reds — clericals and Socialists. 


" organisation of the sale of labour on a wholesale basis/' 
He makes violent attacks on the priests, and the Chagot 
family is denounced because it forces the miners of 
Monceau to go to Mass.^ Everybody then counted on 
the working men's organisations to destroy the power 
of the clerical party. 

If the Waldeck-Rousseau had had the slightest fore- 
sight, he would have perceived the advantage that the 
Conservatives have tried to draw from the law on syndi- 
cates, with a view to attempting the restoration of social 
peace in the country districts imder their own leadership. 
For several years the peril which the RepubUc ran in the 
formation of an agrarian party has been denounced ; * the 
result has not answered to the hopes of the promoters of 
agricultural syndicates, but it might have been serious. 
Waldeck-Rousseau never suspected it for an instant ; he 
does not seem, in his circular, to have suspected even the 
material services which the new associations would render 
to agriculture.^ If he had had any idea of what might come 
to pass, he would have taken precautions in the drawing 
up of the law ; it is certain that neither the minister who 
drew up the law, nor the '* rapporteur " * imderstood the 
importance of the word " agricultural ** which was intro- 
duced by means of an amendment proposed by D'Oudet, 
the senator for Doubs.*^ 

Workmen's associations directed by democrats, using 
cunning, threats, and sometimes even a certain amount 

* Y. Guyot, Morale, pp. 293, 183-184, 122, 148 and 320. 

« De Rocquigny, L«s Syndicats agricoles et leur ceuvre, pp. 42, 391-394. 

* This is all the more remarkable since the syndicates are represented 
in the circular as capable of aiding French industry in its struggle against 
foreign competition. 

« [See note p. 80. — Trans.] 

* It was thought to be merely a question of permitting agricultural 
labourers to form themselves into syndicates ; Tolain declared, in the 
name of the Committee, that he had never thought of excluding them 
from the benefits of the new law (De Rocquigny, op. cit. p. 10). As a 
rule, the agricultural syndicates have served as commercial agencies for 
farm bailifis, landowners, etc. 



of violence, could have been of the greatest service to the 
Government in the struggle against the Conservatives, 
then so threatening. Those people who have recently 
transformed Waldeck-Rousseau into the father of his 
country will probably protest against such a disrespectful 
interpretation of his policy ; but this interpretation will 
not seem altogether improbable to the people who 
remember the cynicism with which he, who is now repre- 
sented as a great Liberal, governed ; one had the impression 
that France was about to enter on a regime which would 
recall the follies, the luxuries, and the brutality of the 
Caesars. Moreover, when unforeseen circumstances 
brought back Waldeck-Rousseau to power, he immediately 
resumed his former policy and tried to use the syndicates 
against his adversaries. 

In 1899 it was no longer possible to attempt to put the 
workmen's associations under the direction of the prefects 
in the way indicated by the circular of 1884 ; but there 
were other methods which might be tried, and in including 
Millerand in his ministry, Waldeck-Rousseau thought he 
had earned out a master-stroke. As Millerand had been 
able to make himself the leader of the Socialists, who had, 
until then, been divided into irreconcilable gi-oups, might 
he not become the broker who would discreetly manipulate 
the syndicates by influencing their leaders ? Every 
means of seduction was employed in order to bring the 
workmen to reason, and to inspire them with confidence 
in the higher ofhcials of the " Government of Republican 

One cannot help being reminded of the policy that 
Napoleon, in signing the Concordat, intended to follow ; 
he had recognised that it would not be possible for him, 
as for Henry VIII., to directly influence the Church. 
" Failing that method," said Taine, " he adopts another, 
which leads to the same end. He does not want to change 


the opinions of his people, he respects spiritual things and 
wishes to control them without interfering with them and 
without becoming entangled himself in them ; he wants to 
make them square with his policy, but by the influence of 
temporal things." ^ In the same way, Millerand was 
commissioned to assure the workmen that their Socialist 
convictions would not be interfered with ; the Government 
only wanted to direct the action of the syndicates and to 
make them fit in with its own policy. 

Napoleon had said, " You will see how I shall be able 
to utilise the priests." ^ Millerand was instructed to 
gratify in every way the vanity of the leaders of the 
syndicates,^ while the mission of the prefects was to induce 
the employers to grant material advantages to the 
workers ; it was thought that this Napoleonic policy 
would give results as considerable as those obtained from 
the policy pursued in regard to the Church. Dumay, 
the Minister of Public Worship, had succeeded in creating 
a docile episcopacy formed of men whom the ardent 
Catholics contemptuously called the " prefets violets."^ 
Might it not be possible, by putting a shrewd principal 
clerk in the office of the minister, to create *' prefets 
rouges.'* An this was fairly well thought out and corre- 
sponded perfectly with the kind of talent possessed by 
Waldeck-Rousseau, who was all his life a great partisan 
of the Concordat and was fond of negotiating with Rome. 
It was not impleasing to him. to negotiate with the reds \ 
the very originality of the enterprise would have been 
enough to chaxm a mind Hke his, that deUghted in 

^ Taine, Le Regime moderne, vol. ii. p. 10. 

2 Taine, loc. cit. p. 11, 

' This is what Mme. Georges Renard very sensibly points out in 
her report of a workmen's fete given by Millerand (L. de Seilhac, Le 
Monde socialiste, p. 308). 

• [Prefets violets ; this expression was used ironically by several 
papers to designate bishops who were too submissive to the Govern- 
ment. Catholic bishops wear a violet robe. — Trans. Note.] 


In a speech on December i, 1905, Marcel Sembat, who 
had been in a particularly good position to know how 
things happened in the time of Millerand, related several 
anecdotes which very much astounded the Chamber. He 
told them how the Government, in order to make itself 
disagreeable to the nationalist mimicipal councillors of 
Paris, and to reduce their influence on the Bourse du 
Travail,! had asked the syndicates **to make applications 
to it that would justify " the reorganisation of that 
establishment. A certain amount of scandal was caused 
by the march past of the red flags before the official plat- 
form at the inauguration of the monument to Dalou in 
the Place de la Nation. We now know that this happened 
as the result of negotiations ; the prefect of police had 
hesitated, but Waldeck-Rousseau had authorised these 
revolutionary ensigns. The fact that the Government 
denied having any relations with the syndicates is of no 
importance — a lie more or less would not trouble a 
pohtician of Waldeck-Rousseau's calibre. 

The exposure of these manoeuvres shows us that the 
ministry depended on the syndicates to frighten the Con- 
servatives. Ever since then it has been easy to imder- 
stand the attitude they have adopted in the course of 
several strikes : on the one hand, Waldeck-Rousseau 
proclaimed with great fervour the necessity of giving 

1 Millerand did not keep on the former Director of the Office du 
Travail, who was doubtless not pliant enough for the new policy. 
It seems to me to be clearly established that at that time considerable 
attention was being given in this Government department to a kind of 
enquiry as to the state of feeling among the miUtants of the syndicates, 
evidently in order to ascertain in what way they might be advised. 
This was revealed by Ch. Guieysse in the Pages libres of December 10, 
1904 ; the protestations of the department and those of Millerand do 
not appear to have been very serious {Voix du peuple, December 18, 25, 
1904, January i, 1905, June 25, August 27). [The Office du Travail is 
a ministerial office, which makes enquiries about labour and publishes 
statistics ; it was created principally in the hope that it would serve 
to put the Government into connection with the leaders of the 
syndicates. — Trans.] 


the protection of public force to every single workman 
who wished to work in spite of the strikers ; on the other 
hand, he has more than once shut his eyes to acts of 
violence. The reason of this is, that he found it necessary 
to annoy and frighten the progressists,^ and because he 
meant to reserve to himself the right of forcible inter- 
vention at the moment when his political interests 
require the disappearance of all disorder. In the pre- 
carious state of his authority in the country he believed 
it possible to govern only by fear and by imposing himself 
as the supreme arbitrator in industrial disputes.^ 

Since 1884 Waldeck-Rousseau's plan had been to trans- 
form the syndicates into politico-criminal associations 
which could serve as auxiliaries to the democratic Govern- 
ment. The syndicates were to play a part analogous to 
that played by the lodges, the latter being useful in 
sppng on the officials, and the former designed to threaten- 
ing the interests of those employers who were not on the 
side of the administration ; the freemasons being re- 
warded by decorations and favours given to their friends, 
the workmen being authorised to extract extra wages 
from their employers. This poUcy was simple and cheap. 

In order that this system may work properly, a certain 
moderation in the conduct of the workmen is necessary. 
Not only must violence be used with discretion, but the 
workmen's demands also must not exceed certain limits. 
The same principles must be applied in this case as in the 
case of the bribery of politicians. Everybody approves 

* It may be questioned whether Waldeck-Rousseau did not go too 
far, and thus started the Government on a very different road from that 
which he wanted it to take ; I do not think that the law about associa- 
tions would have been voted except under the influence of fear, but it 
is certain that its final wording was much more anti-clerical than its 
promoter would have wished. 

* In a speech on June 21, 1907, Charles Benoist complains that the 
Dreyfus case had thrown discredit on " reasons of State," and had led the 
Government to appeal to the elements of disorder in the nation in order 
to create order. 


of that as long as the politicians are reasonable in their 
demands. People who are in business know that there 
is quite a complete art of bribery ; certain intermediaries 
have acquired a special skill in estimating the amount of 
the presents that should be offered to high officials, or to 
deputies who can get bills passed. If financiers are 
almost always obliged to have recourse to the services of 
specialists, there is all the more reason why the workmen, 
^^ho are quite unaccustomed to the customs of this world, 
must need intermediaries to fix the sum which they can 
exact from their employers without exceeding reasonable 

We are thus led to consider arbitration in an entirely 
new light and to understand it in a really scientific manner, 
since, instead of allowing ourselves to be duped by abstrac- 
tions, we shall explain it by means of the dominant ideas 
of middle-class society, who invented it, and who want to 
impose it on the workers. It would be evidently absurd 
to go into a pork butcher's shop, order him to sell us a 
ham at less than the marked price, and then ask him to 
submit the question to arbitration ; but it is not absurd 
to promise to a group of employers the advantages to be 
derived from the fixity of wages for several years, and to 
ask the specialistsvfhdX present remuneration this guarantee 
is worth ; this remuneration may be considerable if 
business is expected to be good during that time. Instead 
of bribing some influential person the employers raise 
their workmen's wages ; from their point of view there 
is no difference. As for the Government, it becomes the 
benefactor of the people, and hopes that it will do well in 
the elections ; to the pohtician, the electoral advantages 
which result from a successful conciliation are worth 
more than a very large bribe. 

It is easy to understand now why all politicians have 

^ I suppose that no one is ignorant of the fact that no important 
undertaking is carried through without bribery. 


SO great an admiration for arbitration ; it is because an 
enterprise conducted without bribery is inconceivable to 
them. Many of our poUticians are lawyers, and clients 
who confide their cases to them attach great weight to 
their Parliamentary influence. It is for this reason that 
a former Minister of Justice is always sure of getting 
remunerative law-suits even when he is not very talented, 
because he has means of influencing the magistrates, with 
whose faihngs he is very famihar, and whom he could 
ruin if he wished. The great political advocates are sought 
out by financiers who have serious difficulties to overcome 
in the law courts, who are accustomed to bribe on a large 
scale and in consequence pay royally. The world of 
employers thus appears to our rulers as a world of 
adventurers, gamblers, and parasites of the stock ex- 
change; they consider that this rich and criminal class 
must expect to submit from time to time to the demands 
of other social groups. Their conception of the ideal 
capitalist society would be a compromise between con- 
flicting appetites under the auspices of political lawyers.^ 
The Catholics would not be sorry, now they are in 

* I borrow from a celebrated novel by Leon Daudet a description of 
the character of the barrister Mederbe. " The latter was a curious 
character, tall, thin, of a well-set-up figure, surmounted by a head like 
a dead fish, green impenetrable eyes, oiled and flattened hair, his whole 
appearance being frozen and rigid. . . . He had chosen the profession 
of a barrister as being one which would supply his own and his wife's 
need of money. . . . He took part chiefly in financial cases, on account 
of the large profit to be made out of them, and of the secrets he learned 
from them ; he was employed in such cases on account of his semi- 
political, semi-judicial relations, which always secured him victory in 
any case he pleaded. He charged fabulous fees. What he was paid 
for was certain acquittal. This man then had enormous power. . . 
He gave one the impression of a bandit armed for social Ufe and sure of 
impunity. . . ." {Les Morticoles, pp. 2S7-28S). It is clear that many 
of these traits are copied from those of the man the Socialists so often 
called the Eiffel barrister, before they made him the de mi-god of 
Republican Defence. [In the Panama affair, Eiffel was prosecuted for 
having illegally appropriated a large sum. Waldeck-Rousseau defended 
him in the law courts. — Trans.} 


Opposition, to find support in the working classes. It is 
not only flattery that they address to the workers, in order 
to convince them that it would be greatly to their 
advantage to abandon the SociaUsts. They also would 
very much like to organise politico-criminal associations, 
just as Waldeck-Rousseau hoped to do twenty years ago ; 
but the results they have obtained up till now have been 
very moderate. Their aim is to save the Church, and they 
think that the well-disposed capitalists might sacrifice 
a part of their profits to give to the Christian syndicates 
the concessions necessary to assure the success of this 
reUgious pohcy. A well-informed CathoHc, who interests 
himself in social questions, lately told me that in a few 
years the workers would be obhged to recognise that their 
prejudices against the Church had no foundation. I think 
that he deluded himself as much as Waldeck-Rousseau 
did when in 1884 he regarded the idea of a revolutionary 
federation of syndicates as ridiculous, but the material 
interest of the Church so blinds Cathohcs that they are 
capable of every kind of stupidity. 

The Social Cathohcs ^ have a way of looking at economic 
questions that makes them resemble our vilest poUticians 
very closely. In fact it is difficult for the clerical world 
to conceive that things can happen otherwise than by 
grace, favouritism, and bribery. 

I have often heard a lawyer say that a priest can never 
be made to understand that certain actions which the 
Code never pimished are nevertheless villainies; and I 
have been told by a bishop's lawyer, that while a clientele 
composed of convents is an excellent one, yet at the same 
time it is very dangerous, because convents frequently 
want fraudulent deeds drawn up. Many people seeing 
during the last fifteen years so many gorgeous monuments 

1 [The "catholiques soceaun " form a definite party. De Mutz has 
been for a long time the recognised leader of the party and still 
exercises considerable influence. — Trans. Note.] 


erected by the religious congregations have wondered if 
a wave of madness was not passing over the Church. 
They are unaware that these building operations enable 
a crowd of pious rascals to live at the expense of the 
Church treasury. The imprudence of those congrega- 
tions which persist in carrying on long and costly law- 
suits against the pubHc treasury has often been pointed 
out, for such tactics enable the Radicals to work up a 
Hvely agitation against the monks by denouncing the 
avarice of people who claim to have taken vows of poverty. 
But these law-suits make plenty of business for the army 
of pious rascaUty. I do not think I am exaggerating 
when I say that more than a third of the fortune of the 
Church has been wasted for the benefit of these vampires. 

A widespread dishonesty therefore prevails in the 
CathoUc world, which leads the devout to believe that 
economic conditions depend chiefly on the caprices of the 
people who hold the purse. Everybody who has profited 
by an imexpected gain — and all profit from capital is an 
unexpected gain to them * — ought to share the profit with 
those people who have a right to his affection or to his 
esteem : first of all the priests,* and then their parishioners. 
If he does not respect this obhgation, he is a rascal, a 
freemason, or a Jew ; no violence is too great to be used 
against such an imp of Satan. When priests, then, are 
heard using revolutionary language, we need not take 
them literally and believe that these vehement orators 
have socialistic sentiments. It simply indicates that the 
capitalists have not been sufficiently generous. 

Here again, then, there is a case for arbitration ; recourse 

* I do not think that there exists a class less capable of understanding 
the economics of production than the priests. 

« In Turkey when a high palace dignitary receives a bribe, the 
Sultan takes the money and then gives a certain proportion of it back 
to his employe ; what proportion is given back depends on the Sultan's 
disposition at the moment. The Sultan's ethical code in these matters 
is also that of our Catholic social reform group. 


must be had to men with great experience of Ufe in order 
to ascertain exactly what sacrifices the rich must submit 
to on behalf of the poor dependants of the Church. 


The study we have just made has not led us to think 
that the theorists of ** social peace " are on the way to an 
ethic worthy of acknowledgment. We now pass to a 
counterproof and enquire whether proletarian violence 
might not be capable of producing the effect in vain 
expected from tactics of moderation. 

First of all, it must be noticed that modem philosophers 
seem to agree in demanding a kind of sublimity from the 
ethics of the future, which will distinguish it from the 
petty and insipid morality of the CathoHcs. The chief 
thing with which the theologians are reproached is that 
they make too great use of the conception of probabilism ; 
nothing seems more absurd (not to say more scandalous) 
to contemporary philosophers than to count the opinions 
which have been emitted for and against a maxim, in order 
to find out whether we ought to shape our conduct by it 
or not. 

Professor Durkheim said recently, at the Societi 
francaise de philosophic (February ii, 1906), that it would 
be impossible to suppress the rehgious element in ethics, 
and that what characterised this element was its incom- 
mensurability with other human values. He recognised 
that his sociological researches led him to conclusions 
very near those of Kant ; he asserted that utilitarian 
morality had misunderstood the problem of duty and 
obligation. I do not want to discuss these here ; I simply 
cite them to show to what point the character of the 
sublime impresses itself on authors who, by the nature of 
their work, would seem the least inclined to accept it. 

No writer has defined more forcibly than Proudhon 


the principles of that morality which modem times have 
in vain sought to realise. " To feel and to assert the 
dignity of man," he says, " first in everything in con- 
nection with ourselves, then in the person of our neighbour, 
and that without a shadow of egoism, without any con- 
sideration either of divine or communal sanction — therein 
lies Right. To be ready to defend that dignity in every 
circumstance with energy, and, if necessary, against one- 
self, that is Justice." ^ Clemenceau, who doubtless can 
hardly be said to make a personal use of this morality, 
expresses the same thought when he writes : " Without 
the dignity of the human person, without independence, 
liberty, and justice, life is but a bestial state not worth 
the trouble of preserving" {Aurore, May 12, 1905). 

One well-founded reproach has been brought against 
Proudhon, as well as against many others of the great 
moralists ; it has been said that his maxims were admir- 
able, but that they were doomed to remain ineffective. 
And, in fact, experience does prove, unfortunately, that 
those precepts which the historians of ideas call the most 
elevated precepts are, as a rule, entirely ineffective. This 
was evident in the case of the Stoics, it was no less remark- 
able in Kantism, and it does not seem as if the practical 
influence of Proudhon has been very noticeable. In order 
that a man may suppress the tendencies against which 
morality struggles, he must have in himself some source 
of conviction which must dominate his whole consciousness, 
and act before the calculations of reflection have time to 
enter his mind. 

It may even be said that all the fine arguments by 
which authors hope to induce men to act morally are more 
hkely to lead them down the slope of probabilism ; as 
soon as we consider an act to be accomplished, we are 
led to ask ourselves if there is not some means of escaping 

1 Proudhon, De la justice dans la revolution et datis I'eglise, vol. i. 


the strict obligations of duty. A. Comte supposed that 
human nature would change in the future and that the 
cerebral organs which produce altruism (?) would destroy 
those which produce egoism ; in saying this he very likely 
bore in mind the fact that moral decision is instantaneous, 
and, like instinct, comes from the depth of man's nature. 

At times Proudhon is reduced, like Kant, to appeal to 
a kind of scholasticism for an explanation of the paradox 
of moral law. " To feel himself in others, to the point of 
sacrificing every other interest to this sentiment, to 
demand for others the same respect as for himself, and 
to be angry with the unworthy creature who sufEers others 
to be lacking in respect for him, as if the care of his dignity 
did not concern himself alone, such a faculty at first sight 
seems a strange one. . . . There is a tendency in every 
man to develop and force the acceptance of that which 
is essentially himself — ^which is, in fact, his own dignity. 
It results from this that the essential in man being identical 
and one for all humanity, each of us is aware of himself at 
the same time as individual and as species ; and that an 
insult is felt by a third party and by the offender himself 
as well as by the injured person, that in consequence the 
protest is common. This precisely is what is meant by 
Justice." * 

Religious ethics claim to possess this source of action 
which is wanting in lay ethics,^ but here it is necessary 
to make a distinction if an error, into which so many 
authors have fallen, is to be avoided. The great mass 
of Christians do not carry out the real Christian ethic, 
that which the philosopher considers as really pecuUar 
to their reUgion ; worldly people who profess Catholicism 
are chiefly preoccupied with probabiUsm, mechanical 

* Proudhon, loc. cit. pp. 216-217. 

* Proudhon thinks that this was also lacking in pagan antiquity : 
" During several centuries, polytheistic societies had customs, but no 
ethics. In the absence of a morality solidly based on principles, the 
customs gradually disappeared " {loc. cU. p. 173). 


rites and proceedings more or less related to magic and 
which are calculated to assure their present and future 
happiness in spite of their sins.^ 

Theoretical Christianity has never been a religion 
suited to worldly people ; the doctors of the spiritual life 
have always reasoned about those people who were able 
to escape from the conditions of ordinary life. " When 
the Council of Gangres, in 325," said Renan, '* declared that 
the Gospel maxims about poverty, the renunciation of 
the family and virginity, were not intended for the ordinary 
Christian, the perfectionists made places apart where the 
evangelical life, too lofty for the common run of men, 
could be practised in all its rigour. ' ' He remarks, moreover, 
very justly, that the " monastery took the place of 
martyrdom so that the precepts of Jesus might be carried 
out somewhere," * but he does not push this comparison 
far enough ; the lives of the great hermits were a material 
struggle against the infernal powers which pursue them 
even to the desert,^ and this struggle was to continue that 
which the martyrs had waged against their adversaries. 

These facts show us the way to a right understanding 
of the nature of lofty moral convictions ; these never 
depend on reasoning or on any education of the individual 
will, but on a state of war in which men voluntarily partici- 
pate and which finds expression in well-defined myths. 
In Catholic countries the monks carry on the struggle 
against the prince of evil who triumphs in this world, and 
would subdue them to his will; in Protestant countries 

* Heinrich Heine claims that the Catholicism of a wife is a very good 
thing for the husband, because the wife is never oppressed by the burden 
of her sins ; after confession she begins again " to chatter and laugh." 
Moreover, there is no danger of her relating her sin {L'Allemagne, 2nd 
edition, vol. ii. p. 322). 

* Renan, Marc-Aurile, p. 558. 

» Catholic saints do not struggle against abstractions but often 
against apparitions which present themselves with all the signs of 
reality. Luther also had to fight the Devil, at whom he threw his 


small fanatical sects take the place of the monasteries.^ 
These are the battle-fields which enable Christian morality 
to hold its own, with that character of sublimity which 
to-day still fascinates many minds and gives it sufficient 
lustre to beget in the community a few pale imitations. 

When one considers a less accentuated state of the 
Christian ethic, one is struck by seeing to what extent 
it depends on strife. Le Play, who was an excellent 
Catholic, often contrasted (to the great scandal of his 
co-religionists) the solidity of the religious convictions 
he met with in countries of mixed religions, with the 
spirit of inactivity which prevails in the countries ex- 
clusively submitted to the influence of Rome. Among the 
Protestant peoples, the more vigorously the Established 
Church is assailed by dissident sects the greater the 
moral fervour developed. We thus see that convictioa 
is founded on the competition of communions, each of 
which regards itself as the army of truth fighting the 
armies of evil. In such conditions it is possible to find 
sublimity ; but when religious warfare is much weakened, 
probabilism, mechanical rites having a certain re- 
semblance to magic, take the first place. 

We can point out quite similar phenomena in the history 
of modem Liberal ideas. For a long while our fathers 
regarded from an almost religious point of \dew the 
Declaration of the Rights of Man, which seems to us now- 
adays only a colourless collection of abstract and con- 
fused formulas, without any great practical bearing. 
This was due to the fact that formidable struggles had 
been imdertaken on account of the institutions which 
originated in this docmnent ; the clerical party asserted 
that it would demonstrate the fundamental error of 
Liberalism ; everywhere it organised fighting societies 
intended to enforce its authority on the people and on the 
Government ; it boasted that it would be able to destroy 

^ Renan, loc. cii. p. 627. 


the defenders of the Revolution before long. At the time 
when Proudhon wrote his book on Justice, the conflict 
was far from being ended ; thus the whole book is written 
in a warUke tone astonishing to the reader of to-day : 
the author speaks as if he were a veteran in the wars of 
Liberty ; he would be revenged on the temporary 
conquerors who threaten the acquisitions of the Revolu- 
tion ; he announces the dawn of the great revolt. 

Proudhon hopes that the duel will be soon, that the 
forces will meet with their whole strength, and that there 
will be a Napoleonic battle, finally destroying the opponent. 
He often speaks in a language which would be appropriate 
to an epic. He did not perceive that when later on his 
belligerent ideas had disappeared, his abstract reasonings 
would seem weak. There is a ferment all through his 
soul which colours it and gives a hidden meaning to his 
thought, very far removed from the scholastic sense. 

The savage fury with which the Church proceeded 
against Proudhon's book shows that the clerical camp 
had exactly the same conception of the nature and con- 
sequences of the conflict as he had. 

As long as the " sublime " imposed itself in this way 
on the modern spirit, it seemed possible to create a lay 
and democratic ethic ; but in our time such an enterprise 
would seem almost comic. Everything is changed now 
that the clericals no longer seem formidable ; there are 
no longer any Liberal convictions, since the Liberals have 
ceased to be animated by their former warlike passions. 
Nowadays everything is in such confusion that the priests 
claim to be the best of democrats ; they have adopted 
the Marseillaise as their party hymn, and if a little 
persuasion is exerted they will have illuminations on the 
anniversary of August 10, 1792. Sublimity has vanished 
from the ethics of both parties, giving place to a morality 
of extraordinary meanness. 


Kautsky is evidently right when he asserts that in our 
time the advancement of the workers has depended on 
their revolutionary spirit. At the end of a study on social 
reform and revolution he says, ** It is hopeless to try, by 
means of moral homiUes, to inspire the English workman 
with a more exalted conception of life, a feeling of nobler 
effort. The ethics of the proletariat spring from its revolu- 
tionary aspirations, these are what give it the greatest 
force and elevation. It is the idea of revolution which 
has raised the proletariat from its degradation." ^ It is 
clear that for Kautsky morahty is always subordinate 
to the idea of sublimity. 

The Socialist point of view is quite different from that 
of former democratic hterature ; our fathers believed 
that the nearer man approached Nature the better he was, 
and that a man of the people was a sort of savage ; that 
consequently the lower we descend the more virtue we 
find. The democrats have many times, in support of this 
idea, called attention to the fact that during revolutions 
the poorest people have often given the finest examples 
of heroism ; they explain this by taking for granted that 
these obscure heroes were true children of Nature. I 
explain it by saying that, these men being engaged in a 
war which was bound to end in their triumph or their 
enslavement, the sentiment of sublimity was bound to be 
engendered by the conditions of the struggle. As a rule, 
during a revolution the higher classes show themselves 
in a particularly unfavourable Hght, for this reason, that, 
belonging to a defeated army, they experience the feelings 
of conquered people, suppliant, or about to capitulate. 

When working-class circles are reasonable, as the 

* Karl Kautsky, La Revolution sociale, French trans., pp. 123-124. 
I have pointed out elsewhere that the decay of the revolutionary idea 
in the minds of former militants who have become moderate seems to be 
accompanied by a moral decadence that I have compared to that which 
as a rule one finds in the case of a priest who has lost his faith {Insegna- 
mente socicUi, pp. 344-345)- 


professional sociologists wish them to be, when conflicts 
are confined to disputes about material interests, there 
is no more opportunity for heroism than when agri- 
cultural sjmdicates discuss the subject of the price of 
guano with manure merchants. It has never been thought 
that discussions about prices could possibly exercise any 
ethical influence on men ; the experience of sales of live 
stock would lead to the supposition that in such cases 
those interested are led to admire cunning rather than 
good faith ; the ethical values recognised by horse-dealers 
have never passed for very elevated. Among the im- 
portant things accomplished by agricultural s^Tidicates, 
De Rocquigny reports that in 1S96, " the municipality 
of Marmande ha\'ing wanted to impose on beasts brought 
to the fair a tax which the cattle-breeders considered 
iniquitous . . . the breeders struck, and stopped supply- 
ing the market of Marmande, with such effect that the 
municipahty found itself forced to give in.^ This was a 
very peaceful procedure which produced results profitable 
to the peasants ; but it is quite clear that nothing ethical 
was involved in such a dispute. 

When politicians intervene there is, almost necessarily, 
a noticeable lowering of ethical standards, because they 
do nothing for nothing and only act on condition that 
the favoured association becomes one of their customers. 
We are very far here from the path of sublimity, we are 
on that which leads to the practices of the political- 
criminal societies. 

In the opinion of many well-informed people, the 
transition from xiolence to cunning which shows itself in 
contemporary strikes in England cannot be too much 
admired. The great object of the Trades Unions is 
to obtain a recognition of the right to employ threats 

* De Rocquigny, op. cit. pp. 379-3S0. I am curious to know how 
exactly a tax can be iniquitous. These worthy progressives speak a 
sjjecial language. 



disguised in diplomatic formulas; they desire that 
their delegates should not be interfered with when going 
the round of the workshops charged with the mission of 
bringing those workmen who wish to work to understand 
that it would be to their interests to follow the directions 
of the Trades Unions ; they consent to express their 
desires in a form which will be perfectly clear to the 
listener, but which could be represented in a court of 
justice as a solidarist^ sermon. I protest I cannot see 
what is so admirable in these tactics, which are worthy of 
Escobar. In the past the Catholics have often employed 
similar methods of intimidation against the Liberals; I 
understand thus perfectly well why so many worthy pro- 
gressives admire the Trades Unions, but the morahty of the 
worthy-progressives does not seem to me very much to be 

It is true that for a long time in England violence has 
been void of all revolutionary character. Whether 
corporative advantages are pursued by means of blows 
or by craft, there is not much difference between the two 
methods ; yet the pacific tactics of the Trades Unions 
indicate an h5rpocrisy which would be better left to the 
" wdl intentioned progressives." In a coimtry where the 
conception of the general strike exists, the blows ex- 
changed between workmen and representatives of the 
middle classes have an entirely different import, their 
consequences are far reaching and they may beget 

I am convinced that in order to understand part, at any 
rate, of the dislike that Bernstein's doctrines rouse in 
German social democracy we must bear in mind these 
conclusions about the nature of the sublime in ethics. 
The German has been brought up on subUmity to an 

* [This is a reference to the " solidarista " doctrine, invented by 
Buisson; the interests of the classes are not opposed, and the more 
wealthy have their duties toward the poorer. — Trans. Note.] 


extraordinary extent, first by the literature connected 
with the wars of independence,^ then by the revival of the 
taste for the old national songs which followed these wars, 
then by a philosophy which pursues aims very far removed 
from sordid considerations. It must also be remembered 
that the victory of 1871 has considerably contributed 
toward giving Germans of every class a feeling of confidence 
in their strength that is not to be found to the same degree 
in this country at the present time ; compare, for instance, 
the German Catholic party with the chicken-hearted 
creatures who form the cHent^le of the Church in France ! 
Our clergy only think of humiliating themselves before 
their adversaries and are quite happy, provided that there 
are plenty of evening parties during the winter ; they 
have no recollection of services which are rendered to 

The German Socialist party drew its strength particu- 
larly from the catastrophic idea everywhere spread by its 
propagandists, and which was taken very seriously as long 
as the Bismarckian persecutions maintained a warlike 
spirit in the groups. This spirit was so strong in the 
masses that they have not yet succeeded in understanding 
thoroughly that their leaders are anything but 

* Renan even wrote : " The war of 18 13 to 18 15 is the only one of 
our century that had anything epic and elevated about it . . . [it] 
corresponded to a movement of ideas and had a real intellectual signific- 
ance. A man who had taken part in this great struggle told me that, 
awakened by the cannonade on the first night that he passed with the 
volunteer troops collected in Silesia, he felt that he was witnessing an 
immense divine service " {JEssais de morale et de critique, p. 116). Com- 
pare Manzoni's ode entitled " Mars 1821," dedicated to " the illustrious 
memory of Theodore Koemer, poet and soldier of German independence 
and killed on the field of battle at Leipzig, a name dear to all those peoples 
who are struggling to defend or to reconquer their fatherland." Our 
own wars of Liberty were also epic, but they have not been so well 
written up as the war of 181 3. 

* Drumont has often denounced this state of mind of the fashionable 
religious world. 


When Bernstein (who was too intelligent not to know 
what was the real spirit of his friends on the directing 
committee) announced that the grandiose hopes which 
had been raised must be given up, there was a moment of 
stupefaction ; very few people understood that Bernstein's 
declarations were courageous and honest actions, intended 
to make the language of Socialism accord more with 
the real facts. If hereafter it was necessary to be con- 
tent with the policy of social reform, the parliamentary 
parties and the ministry would have to be negotiated 
with — that is, it would be necessary to behave exactly 
as the middle classes did. This appeared monstrous to 
men who had been brought up on a catastrophic theory of 
Socialism. Many times had the tricks of the middle class 
politicians been denoimced, their astuteness contrasted 
with the candour and disinterestedness of the SociaHsts, 
and the large element of artificiality and expediency in 
their attitude of opposition pointed out. It could never 
have been imagined that the disciples of Marx might 
follow in the footsteps of the Liberals. With the new 
poUcy, heroic characters, sublimity, and convictions dis- 
appear ! The Germans thought that the world - was 
turned upside do\vn. 

It is plain that Bernstein was absolutely right in not 
wanting to keep up a revolutionary semblance which was 
in contradiction with the real state of mind of the party ; 
he did not find in his own country the elements which 
existed in France and Italy ; he saw no other way then 
of keeping SociaUsm on a basis of reaUty than that of 
suppressing all that was deceptive in a revolutionary 
programme which the leaders no longer believed in. 
Kautsky, on the contrary, wanted to preserve the veil 
which hid from the w^orkmen the real activity of the 
Socialist party ; in this way he achieved much success 
among the poUticians, but more than any one else he has 
helped to intensify the Socialist crisis in Germany. The 


ideas of Socialism cannot be kept intact by diluting the 
phrases of Marx in verbose commentaries, but by con- 
tinually adapting the spout of Marx to facts which are 
capable of assuming a revolutionary aspect. The general 
strike alone can produce this result at the present day. 

One serious question must now be asked. " ^Vhy is it 
that in certain countries acts of violence grouping them- 
selves round the idea of the general strike, produce a 
SociaHst ideology capable of inspiring subUmity, and why 
in others do they seem not to have that power ? " Here 
national traditions play a great part ; the examination 
of this problem would perhaps help to throw a strong 
light on the genesis of ideas ; but we will not deal with it 



I. Morality and religion — Contempt of democracies for morality — 
Ethical preoccupations of the " new school." 

II. Renan's uneasiness about the future of the world — His con- 
jectures — The need of the sublime. 

III. Nietzsche's ethics — The rdle of the family in the genesis of 
morality ; Proudhon's theory — The ethics of Aristotle. 

IV. Kautsky's hypothesis — Analogies between the spirit of the 
general strike and that of the wars of Liberty — Fear in- 
spired in the Parliamentarians by this spirit. 

V. The artisan employed in progressive and inventive production, 
the artist and the soldier in the wars of Liberty : desire to 
surpass previous models ; care for exactitude ; abandon- 
ment of the idea of exact recompense. 

Fifty years ago Proudhon pointed out the necessity of 
giving the people a morality which would fit new needs. 
The first chapter of the preliminary discourses placed at 
the beginning of Justice in the Revolution and in the Church 
is entitled " The State of Morals in the Nineteenth 
Century. Invasion of moral scepticism ; society in 
danger. What is the remedy ? " There one reads these 
noteworthy sentences : " France has lost its morals. 
Not that, as a matter of fact, the men of our generation 
are worse than their fathers. . . . When I say that 
France has lost its morals I mean that it has ceased to 



believe in the very principles of morality, a very difEerent 
thing. She has no longer moral inteUigence or conscience, 
she has almost lost the idea of morals itself ; as a result 
of continual criticism we have come to this melan- 
choly conclusion : that right and wrong, between which 
we formerly thought we were able to distinguish dogmatic- 
ally, are now vague and indeterminate conventional terms ; 
that all these words. Right, Duty, Morality, Virtue, etc., 
of which the pulpit and the school talk so much, serve 
to cover nothing but pure hypotheses, vain Utopias, 
and unprovable prejudices ; that thus ordinary social 
behaviour, which is apparently governed by some sort of 
human respect or by convention, is in reaUty arbitrary." ^ 
However, he did not think that contemporary society 
was mortally wounded ; he believed that since the 
Revolution, hmnanity had acquired an idea of Justice 
which was sufficiently clear to enable it to triumph over 
temporary lapses ; by this conception of the future he 
separated himself completely from what was to become the 
most fundamentad idea of contemporary ofl&cial Socialism, 
which sneers at moraUty. " This juridical faith . . . this 
science of right and duty, which we seek everywhere in 
vain, that the Chiu-ch has never possessed, and without 
which it is impossible for us to hve, I say that the Revolu- 
tion created all its principles ; that these principles, 
unknown to us, 'rule and uphold us, but while at the 
bottom of our hearts affirming them, we shrink from 
them through prejudice, and it is this infidehty to ourselves 
that makes our moral poverty and servitude."* He 

^ Proudhon, De la justice dans la revolution ei dans I'eglise vol. i. 
p. 70. 

* Proudhon, loc. cit. p. 74. By juridical faith Proudhon here 
understands a triple faith, wliich dominates the family, contracts, and 
political relations. The first is " the conception of the mutual dignity 
(of husband and wife) which, raising them above the level of the senses, 
renders them more sacred to the other even than dear, and makes their 
fertile community a rehgion for them, sweeter than love itself " — the 
second " raising the mind above egoistical appetites, is made happier 


maintains the possibility of bringing light to our minds, 
of presenting what he calls *' the exegesis of the Revolu- 
tion " ; in order to do this, he examines history, showing 
how humanity has never ceased to strive tow^ards Justice, 
how religion has been the cause of corruption, and how 
*' the French Revolution by bringing about the pre- 
dominance of the juridical principle (over the religious 
principle) opens a new epoch, an entirely contrary order 
of things, the different elements of which it is now our 
task to determine. ' ' ^ Whatever may happen in the future 
to our worn-out race, he says at the end of this discourse, 
'* posterity will recognise that the third age of humanity ^ 
has its start in the French Revolution ; that an under- 
standing of this new law has been given to some of us in 
all its fulness ; that we have not been found quite wanting 
in the practice of it ; and that to perish in this sublime 
childbirth was, after all, not without grandeur. At that 
hour the Revolution became clear, then it lived. The 
rest of the nation (i.e. those who had not understood the 
Revolution) does not think at all. Will that part which 
lives and thinks he suppressed by that which does not? "^ 

I said in the preceding chapter that the whole doctrine 
of Proudhon was subordinated to revolutionary enthusiasm 
and that this enthusiasm has been extinct since the 
Church has ceased to be formidable ; thus there is nothing 
astonishing in the fact that the undertaking which 
Proudhon considered so easy (the creation of a moraUty 
absolutely free from all rehgious belief) seems very un- 
certain to many of our contemporaries. I find a proof 

by respect for the right of another than by its own fortune " — without 
the third " citizens submitting to the attraction of indiWdualism could 
not form, whatever they did, an>'thing other than a mere aggregate of 
incoherent and repulsive existences that the first wind will disperse 
like dust " {loc. cit. pp. 72-73). In the strict sense of the word, juridical 
faith would be the second of these three. 

* Proudhon, loc. cit. p. 93. 

* The two first epochs are those of paganism and of Christiamty. 

* Proudhon, loc. cU. p. 104. 


of this way of thinking in a speech by Combes delivered 
during a discussion of the budget of PubHc Worship, 
January 26, 1903 : *' At the present moment we look 
upon the moral ideas taught by the Church as necessary 
ideas. For my part I find it difficult to accept the idea of 
a society composed of philosophers like M. Allard,^ whose 
primary education would have sufficiently guaranteed 
them against the perils and trials of life." Combes is 
not the kind of man to have ideas of his o^^'n ; he repro- 
duced an opinion current in his circle. 

This declaration created a great commotion in the 
Chamber. All the deputies who prided themselves on 
their knowledge of philosophy took part in the debate ; 
as Combes had referred to the superficial and narrow 
instruction of our primary schools, F. Buisson felt that 
as the leading pedagogue of the third Republic, he ought 
to protest : " The education that we give to the child of 
the people," he said, "is not a half education, it is the 
very flower and fruit of civilisation gathered during the 
centuries, from among many peoples, in the religions and 
legal systems of all ages and of all mankind." An ethic 
of this abstract kind must be entirely devoid of efficacy. 
I remember having read, in a manual by Paul Bert, that 
the fundamental principles of morahty are based on the 
teachings of Zoroaster, and the Constitution of the year 
III. These do not seem to me the kind of principles 

* This deputy had made a very anticlerical speech irom which I 
quote this curious idea that " the Jewish religion was the most clerical 
of all religions, possessing the most sectarian and narrowest type of 
clericalism." A little before this he said, "I mj'^elf am not an anti-Semite, 
and only make one reproach to the ]evrs, that of ha\Tng poisoned 
Aryan thought, so elevated and broad, with Hebraic monotheism." He 
demanded the introduction of the history of religions into the curriculum 
of the primary schools in order to ruin the authority of the Church. 
According to him the Socialist party saw in " the intellectual emancipa- 
tion of the masses the necessary preface to the progress and social 
evolution of societies." Is it not rather the contrary which is true ? 
Does not this speech prove that there is an anti-Semitism in free-thinking 
circles quite as narrow and badly informed as that of the clericals ? 


which would be powerful enough to influence a man's 

It might be imagined that the University had arranged 
its present programme in the hope of imposing moral 
conduct on its pupils by means of the repetition of precepts ; 
moral courses are multiplied to such an extent that one 
might ask oneself if (with a sHght difference) the weU- 
known verse of Boileau might not be appHed : 

Aimez-vous la muscade ? On en a mis partout.* 

I do not think that there are many people who share 
the naive confidence of F. Buisson and the members of 
the University in this ethic. Exactly like Combes, G. de 
Molinari believes that it is necessary to have recourse to 
religion, which promises men a reward in the other world, 
and which is thus, " the surety of justice. ... It is 
religion which in the infancy of humanity, raised the 
edifice of morality ; it is religion which supports and 
which alone can support it. Such are the functions which 
religion has filled and which it continues to fill and which, 
unpleasant as it may be to the apostles of independent 
morality, constitute its usefulness." ^ " We must look 
for help to a more powerful and more active instnunent 
than the interests of society, to effect those reforms 
demonstrated by political economy to be necessary, and 
this instrument can only be found in the religious senti- 
ment associated with the sentiment of justice." ^ 

G. de Molinari expresses himself in intentionally vague 
terms ; he seems to regard religion as do many modem 
Catholics (of the Bruneti^re type) ; that is, as a means 
of social Government, which must be suited to the needs 
of the different classes ; people of the higher classes have 
always considered that they had less need of moral 
discipline than their subordinates, and it is by making this 

* So do like musk ? It has been put everywhere. 
" G. de Molinari, Science et religion, p. 94. 
» G. de Molinari, op, cit. p. 198. 


fine discovery the basis of their theology that the Jesuits 
have had so much success in contemporary middle classes. 
Our author distinguishes four motive forces capable of 
assuring the accompHshment of duty — "the power of 
society invested in the Governmental organism, the power 
of public opinion, the power of the individual conscience, 
and the power of reUgion " ; and he considers that this 
spiritual mechanism perceptibly lags behind the material 
mechanism.^ The two first motive forces may have some 
influence on capitalists, but none in the workshop ; for 
the workers the last two motive forces are alone effective, 
and they will become every day more important on 
account of " the growth of responsibihty in those who are 
charged with the direction and surveillance of the working 
of machinery/* ^ g^t according to Molinari we could 
not conceive the power of the individual conscience without 
that of religion .3 

I believe, then, that G. de Molinari would be inclined 
to approve of the employers who protect religious institu- 
tions ; he would only, however, like it done with a Uttle 
more circumspection than Chagot used at Monceaules 

The Socialists for a long time have been greatly pre- 
judiced against morality, on account of these CathoUc 
institutions that the large employers estabUshed for their 
workpeople. It seemed to them that, in our capitalist 
society, morality was only a means of assuring the docihty 
of workmen, who are kept in the fear created by super- 
stition. The literature which the middle class have 
admired for so long describes conduct so outrageous, so 
scandalous even, that it is difficult to credit the rich 

1 G. de Molinari, op. cit. p. 61. 

' G. de Molinari, op. cit. p. 54. 

» G. de Molinari, op. cit. pp. 87 and 93. 

« I have already mentioned that in 1 883 Y. Guyot violently denounced 
the conduct of Chagot, who placed his workmen under the direction of 
the priests, and forced them to go to Mass {Morale, p. 183). 


classes with sincerity when they speak of inculcating 
moraUty in the people. 

The Marxists had a particular reason for showing 
themselves suspicious in all that concerned ethics ; the 
propagators of social reforms, the Utopists and the 
democrats, had so abused the idea of Justice that it was 
only reasonable to consider all discussions on such a 
subject as an exercise in rhetoric, or as sophistry intended 
to mislead those who were interested in the working-class 
movement. This is why, several years ago, Rosa Luxem- 
burg called the idea of Justice " this old post horse, on 
which all the regenerators of the world, deprived of surer 
means of locomotion, have ridden ; this imgainly Rosinante, 
moimted on which so many Quixotes of history have gone 
in search of the great reform of the world, bringing back 
from these journeys nothing but black eyes." ^ From 
these sarcasms about a fantastic Justice springing from the 
imagination of Utopists, they often used to pass, too easily, 
to coarse f acetiousness about the most ordinary moraUty ; 
^ rather sordid selection could easily be made of para- 
doxes supported by the official Marxists on this subject. 
Lafargue distinguishes himself particularly from this 
point of view.' 

The principal reason which prevented the Socialists 
from studying ethical problems as they deserved was the 
democratic superstition which has dominated them for 
so long and which has led them to beUeve that above 
everything else the aim of their actions must be the 
acqvdsition of seats in poUtical assemblies. 

* Mouvetmnt socialiste, June 15, 1S89, p. 649. 

* Sec, for example, the Socialiste of June 30, 1901. " As in a com- 
munist society the morals which clogs the brains of the tivilised will have 
vanished like a frightful nightmare, perhaps to be replaced by another 
ethic, which will incite women to flutter about like butterflies, to use 
Ch. Fourier's expression, instead of submitting to being the property 
of a male. ... In savage tribes and among barbarous communists 
women are much more honoured when they distribute their favours to 
a great number of lovers." 


From the moment one has anything to do with elections, 
it is necessary to submit to certain general conditions 
which impose themselves unavoidably on all parties in 
every country and at all times. If one is convinced that 
the future of the world depends on the electoral pro- 
gramme, on compromises between influential men and 
on the sale of privileges, it is not possible to pay much 
attention to the moral constraints which prevent a man 
going in the direction of his most obvious interests. 
Experience shows that in all countries where democracy 
can develop its nature freely, the most scandalous corrup- 
tion is displayed without any one thinking it even necessary 
to conceal his rascality. Tammany Hall of New York 
has always been cited as the most perfect type of demo- 
cratic life, and in the majority of our large to\\Tis politicians 
are found who ask for nothing better than to follow the 
paths of their confreres in America. So long as a man 
is faithful to his party he only commits peccadilloes, but 
if he is unwdse enough to abandon it, he is immediately 
discovered to have the most shameful vices. It would 
not be difficult to show, by means of well-known examples, 
that our Parliamentary Socialists practise this singular 
morality with a certain amount of cynicism. 

There is a great resemblance between the electoral 
democracy and the Stock Exchange ; in one case as in 
the other it is necessary to work upon the simplicity of 
the masses, to buy the co-operation of the most important 
papers, and to assist chance by an infinity of trickery. 
There is not a great deal of difference between a financier 
who puts big sounding concerns on the market which 
come to grief in a few years, and the politician who 
promises an infinity of reforms to the citizens which he 
does not know how to bring about, ^ and which resolve 

* On June 21, 1907, Clemenceau, replying to Millerand, told hira 
that in introducing the bill to establish old age pensions, without con- 
cerning himself with where the money was to come from, he had not 


themselves simply into an accumulation of Parliamentary 
papers. Neither one nor the other know anything about 
production, and yet they manage to obtain control over 
it, to misdirect and exploit it shamelessly ; they are 
dazzled by the marvels of modem industry, and it is. their 
private opinion that the world is so rich that they can 
rob it on a large scale without causing any great outcry 
among the producers ; the great art of the financier and 
the politician is to be able to bleed the taxpayer without 
bringing him to the point of revolt. Democrats and 
business men have quite a special science for the purpose 
of making the deUberative assemblies approve of their 
swindling ; the ParUaments are as packed as share- 
holders' meetings. It is probable that they both imder- 
stand each other as perfectly as they do because of pro- 
f oimd psychological affinities resulting from these methods 
of operation ; democracy is the paradise of which un- 
scrupulous financiers dream. 

The disheartening spectacle presented to the world 
by these financial and political parasites ^ explains the 
success which anarchist writers have had for so long ; 
these latter founded their hopes of the regeneration of 
the world on the intellectual progress of individuals ; 
they never ceased urging the workmen to educate them- 
selves, to realise more fully their dignity as men, and to 
show their devotion to their comrades. This attitude 

acted as " a statesman nor even as a responsible person." Millerand's 
reply is quite characteristic of the pride of the political parvenu : 
" Don't talk about things that you know nothing about." Of what 
then does he himself speak ? 

* I am pleased here to be able to support myself in the incontestable 
authority of Gerault-Richard who in the Petite Repuhlique on March 19, 
1903, denounced the " intriguers, people who wish to get on at all costs, 
starvelings and ladies' men (who) are only after the spoils " and who 
at that time were trying to bring about the fall of the Combes ministry. 
From the following number we see that he is speaking of Waldeck- 
Rousseau's friends, who, like him, were opposed to the destruction of 
the congregations. 


was imposed on them by their principles : in fact, how 
was the formation of a society of free men conceivable 
if it was not taken for granted that individuals had not 
already acquired the capacity of guiding themselves ? 
Politicians assert that this is a very naive idea, and that 
the world will enjoy all the happiness it can desire on 
the day when messengers of the new Gospel are able to 
profit from the advantages that power procures ; nothing 
will be impossible for a State which turns the editors of 
HumanitS into princes. If in that time it is considered 
useful to have free men, they will be manufactured by a 
few good laws ; but it is doubtful if the friends and share- 
holders of Jaur^s will find that necessary ; it will be 
sufficient for them if they have servants and taxpayers. 

The new school is rapidly differentiating itself from 
official Socialism in recognising the necessity of the im- 
provement of morals.^ It is thus customary for the 
dignitaries of Parliamentary Socialism to accuse it of 
anarchical tendencies ; for my part, I should not object to 
acknowledge myself as an anarchist in this respect, since 
Parliamentary Socialism professes a contempt for morality 
equalled only by that which the vilest representatives 
of the stockbroking middle class have for it. 

The new school also has sometimes been reproached 
with returning to the dreams of the Utopists. This 
criticism shows how much our adversaries misunderstand 
the works of the old Socialists as well as the present 
situation. The aim of the early Socialists was to build 
up ethical ideas capable of influencing the feelings of the 
upper classes, in such a way as to make them sympathise 
with those who in pity are called " the disinherited 
classes," and of inducing them to make some sacrifice 
in favour of their unfortunate brethren. The writers of 

* This is what Benedetto Croce pointed out in the Critica of July 17, 
1907, PP- 317-319- This writer is well known in Italy as a remarkably 
acute critic and philosopher. 


that time picture the manufactory of the future in a very 
different light from that which it may have in a society of 
proletarians carrying on industry in a technically pro- 
gressive and inventive way ; they suppose that it might 
resemble drawing-rooms in which ladies meet to do em- 
broidery ; in this way they gave a middle-class setting to 
the mechanism of production. Finally, they credited the 
proletariat with feelings closely resembling those which 
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century explorers attributed 
to savages — goodness, simplicity, and an anxiety to imitate 
a superior race of men. With such hypotheses it was an 
easy matter to conceive an organisation of peace and 
happiness ; it was only necessary to make the rich better 
and the poorer class more enlightened. These two 
operations seemed easily realisable, and then the fusion 
of the drawing-room and the factory, which has turned 
the heads of so many Utopists, would be brought about. ^ 
The *' new school *' never conceives things on an idyllic, 
Christian, and middle-class model ; it knows that the pro- 
cess of production requires entirely different qualities from 
those met with in the upper classes ; it is only on account 
of the moral qualities, which are necessary to improve 
production, that it deals so much with ethical questions. 
The new school, then, resembles the economists much 
more than the Utopists ; hke G. de Molinari, it considers 
that the moral progress of the proletariat is as necessary 
as material improvement in machinery, if modem industry 
is to be hfted to the increasingly higher levels that 
technical science allows it to attain ; but it descends 
farther than this author does into the depths of this 
problem, and does not content itself with vague recom- 
mendations about religious duty.^ In its insatiable 

^ In the New-Harmony colony founded by R. Owen the work done 
was little and bad, but amusements were abundant ; in 1826 the Duke 
of Saxe-Weimar was dazzled by the music and the balls (Dolleans, 
Robert Owen, pp. 247-268). 

» G. de Molinari appears to believe that a natural religion like that 


desire for reality, it tries to arrive at the real roots of this 
process of moral perfection and desires to know how to 
create to-day the ethic of the producers of the future. 


At the beginning of any research on modem ethics 
this question must be asked. Under what conditions 
is regeneration possible ? The Marxists are absolutely 
right in laughing at the Utopists and in maintaining that 
morality is never created by mild preaching, by the 
ingenious constructions of theorists, or by fine gestures. 
Proudhon, having neglected this problem, suffered from 
many illusions about the persistence of the forces which 
gave life to his own ethics ; experience was soon to prove 
that his imdertaking was to remain fruitless. And if the 
contemporary world does not contain the roots of a new 
ethic what will happen to it ? The sighs of a whimpering 
middle class will not save it, if it has for ever lost its 

Very shortly before his death Renan was much en- 
grossed with the ethical future of the world : " Moral 
values decline, that is a certainty, sacrifice has almost 
disappeared ; one can see the day coming when every- 
thing will be syndicalised,^ when organised selfishness will 
take the place of love and devotion. There will be strange 
upheavals. The two things which alone until now have 
resisted the decay of reverence, the army * and the Church, 
will soon be swept away in the universal torrent . * ' ^ Renan 
showed a remarkable insight in writing this at the very 

of J. J. Rousseau or Robespierre would suflSce. We know to-day that 
such means have no moral efl&cacy. 

1 Renan is complaining that the corporative associations dominate 
society too much. It is clear that he had none of the veneration for 
the corporative spirit that so many contemporary idealists display. 

* He did not foresee that his son-in-law would agitate violently 
against the army in the Dreyfus affair. 

* Renan, Feuilles dHoQh^cs, p. 14. 



moment when so many futile intellects were announcing 
the renascence of idealism and foreseeing progressive 
tendencies in a Church that was at length reconciled with 
the modem world. But all his life Renan had been too 
favoured by fortime not to be optimistic ; he believed, 
therefore, that the evil of the future would consist simply 
in the necessity of passing through a bad period, and 
he added : "No matter, the resources of humanity are 
infinite. The eternal designs will be fulfilled, the springs 
of life ever forcing their way to the surface will never 
be dried up." 

He had finished, several months before, the fifth volume 
of his History of the People of Israel, and this voliune, 
having been printed from the unaltered manuscript, 
contains a more imperfect expression of his ideas on this 
subject ; (it is known that he corrected his proofs very care- 
fully) . We find in this the most gloomy presentiments ; the 
author even questions whether humanity will ever attain 
Its real end. " If this globe should happen not to fulfil 
its purpose, there will be others to carry on to its final end 
the programme of all life — Light, Reason, and Truth." ^ 
The times to come frightened him. " The immediate 
future is dark. The triumph of Light is not assured." 
He dreaded SociaUsm, and there is no doubt that by 
Socialism he meant the humanitarian idiocy which he 
saw emerging in the stupid middle-class world ; it was, 
in this way, that he came to think that Catholicism might 
perhaps be the accomplice of Socialism. ^ 

On the same page he speaks of the divisions which may 
exist in a society, and this is of considerable importance. 
" Judea and the Greco-Roman world were like two imi- 
verses revolving one beside the other under opposing 
influences. . . . The history of humanity by no means 
synchronises in its various parts. Tremble ! At this 

* Renan, Histoire du peuple d' Israel, vol. v. p. 421. 
* Renan, Iqc. cit. p. 42a. 


moment perhaps the religion of the future is being 
created . . . and we have no part in it. I envy wise 
Kimri who saw beneath the earth. It is there that every- 
thing is prepared, it is there that we must look." There 
is in these words nothing that the theorists of the class- 
war could not approve of ; in them I find the commentary 
to what Renan said a little later on the subject of " the 
springs of life ever forcing their way to the surface '* ; 
regeneration is being brought about by a class which works 
subterraneously, and which is separating itself from the 
modem world as Judaism did from the ancient world. 

Whatever the official sociologists may think, the lower 
classes are by no means condemned to live on the cnunbs 
which the upper classes let fall ; we are glad to see Renan 
protest against this imbecile doctrine. Syndicalism claims 
to create a real proletarian ideology, and whatever the 
middle-class professors say of it, historical experience, as 
proclaimed by the mouth of Renan, tells us that this is 
quite possible, and that out of it may come the salvation 
of the world. The syndicalist movement is really being 
developed underground ; the men who devote themselves 
to it do not make much noise in the world ; what a 
difference between them and the former leaders of demo- 
cracy, whose sole aim was the conquest of power ! 

These men were intoxicated by the hope that the 
chances of life might some day make them republican 
princes. While waiting for the wheel of fortune to turn 
to their advantage in this way, they obtained the moral 
and material advantages that celebrity procures for all 
virtuosi, in a society which is accustomed to paying well 
those who amuse it. The chief motive force behind many 
of them was their immeasurable pride, and they fancied 
that, as their name was bound to shine with singular 
brilliancy in the annals of humanity, they might buy that 
future glory by a few sacrifices. 

None of these motives for action exist for the SyndicaUsts 


of to-day ; the proletariat has none of the servile instincts 
of democracy ; it no longer aspires to walk on all fours 
before a former comrade who has become a chief magistrate, 
or to swoon for joy before the toilettes of ministers' wives.* 
The men who devote themselves to the revolutionary 
cause know that they must always remain poor. They 
carry on their work of organisation without attracting 
attention, and the meanest hack who scribbles for 
L'Humanite is much better known than the miUtants of 
the Confederation du Travail ;^ for the great majority of 
the French public, Griffuelhes will never have the notoriety 
of Rouanet ;^ and in the absence of the material advantages, 
which they could hardly expect, they have not even the 
satisfaction that celebrity can give. Putting their whole 
trust in the movements of the masses, they have no 

* The essence of democracy is concentrated in the wo/ attributed to 
Mme. Flocon. "It is we who are the princesses." The democracy is 
happy when it sees a ridiculous creature like F61ix Faure, whom Joseph 
Reinach compared to the bourgeois gentilhomme, treated with princely 
honours {Histoire de I' affaire Dreyfus, vol. iv. p. 552). 

* Parliamentary Socialism is very keen on good manners, as we can 
assure ourselves by consulting Gerault-Richard's numerous articles. I 
quote at random several specimens. On June i, 1903, he declared 
in the Petite Ripublique that Queen Nathalie of Servia should have 
been called to order " for having listened to the preaching of P. Coube 
at Aubervilles, and he demands that she be admonished by the police 
commissary of her district." On September 26 he is roused to indigna- 
tion by the coarseness and the ignorance of good manners exhibited by 
Admiral Marechal. The socialist code has its mysteries ; the wives 
of socialists are sometimes called ladies and sometimes citizenesses ; 
in the society of the future there will evidently be disputes about the 
order of precedence as there were at Versailles. On July 30, 1903, 
Cassagnac makes great fun in the A utorite of his having been taken to 
task by Gerault-Richaurd, who had given him lessons in good manners. 

* Griffuelhes, who had been a shoemaker, was at one time secretary 
of the Confederation du Travail ; he was remarkably intelUgent ; cf. a 
pamphlet by him entitled Voyage revolutionnaire. 

[Rouanet was Malon's principal disciple ; he was for some time a 
deputy, very much opposed to the Marxists, naturally a great ad- 
versary of the Confederation du Travail, a type of socialist politician 
who occupies a considerable place in journalism and in Parliament, but 
who does not count at all intellectually. — Trans.] 


expectation of a Napoleonic glory, and they leave the 
superstition of great men to the middle classes. 

It is well that it is so, because the proletariat will be 
able to develop itself much more surely if it organises 
itself in obscurity ; Socialist politicians shun occupations 
which do not provide celebrity (and which are consequently 
not profitable) ; they are, then, not at all disposed to 
trouble themselves with the work of the syndicates, the 
object of which is to remain proletarian ; they make a 
show on the Parliamentary stage, but that, as a rule, does 
not amount to much. The men who do participate in 
the real working-class movement are an example of what 
have always been looked upon as the greatest virtues ; 
they cannot, in fact, acquire any of those things which 
the middle classes regard as especially desirable. If, then, 
as Renan asserts,^ history rewards the resigned abnegation 
of men who strive uncomplainingly, and who accomplish, 
without profit, a great historical work, we have a new 
reason for believing in the advent of Socialism, since it 
represents the highest moral ideal ever conceived by man. 
This time it is not a new religion which is shaping itself 
imderground, without the help of the middle-class thinkers, 
it is the birth of a virtue, a virtue which the middle-class 
Intellectuals are incapable of understanding, a virtue 
which has the power to save civilisation, as Renan hoped 
it would be saved — but by the total elimination of the 
class to which Renan belonged. 

Let us now consider closely the reasons which made 
Renan dread a decadence of the middle-class ; ^ he was 

1 Renan, op. cit. vol. iv. p. 267. 

* Renan pointed out one symptom of decadence, on which he did 
not insist enough and which does not seem to have particularly im- 
pressed his readers ; he was irritated by the restlessness, the claims to 
originality, and the naive rivalry of the young metaphysicians: " But, 
my dear fellows, it is useless to give oneself so much headache, merely 
to change from one error to another" {Feuilles detachces, p. 10). A 
restlessness of this kind (which puts on nowadays a sociological, socialist, 
or humanitarian air) is a sure sign of anaemia. 


struck by the decay of religious ideas : "An immense 
moral, and perhaps intellectual, degeneracy will follow the 
disappearance of religion from the world. We, at the 
present day, can dispense with religion, because others 
have it for us. Those who do not believe are carried 
along by the more or less beUeving majority ; but on the 
day when the majority lose this impulse, the men of spirit 
themselves will go feebly to the attack." It is the 
absence of the sentiment of sublimity which Renan 
dreaded ; like all old people in their days of sadness, he 
thinks of his childhood, and adds, '' Man is of value in 
proportion to the religious sentiment which he preserves 
from his first education and which colours his whole life." 
He himself had lived all his life under the influence of 
the sentiment of sublimity inculcated in him by his 
mother ; we know, in fact, that Madame Renan was a 
woman of lofty character. But the source of sublimity 
is dried up : " Religious people live on a shadow. We live 
on the shadow of a shadow. On what will those who 
come after us live ? " ^ 

Renan, as was his wont, tried to mitigate the gloom 
of the outlook which his perspicacity presented to him ; 
he is like many other French writers who, wishing to 
please a frivolous public, never dare to go to the bottom 
of the problems that life presents ; ^ he does not wish to 
frighten his amiable lady admirers, so he adds, therefore, 
that it is not necessary to have a religion burdened with 
dogmas, such a religion, for example, as Christianity ; the 
religious sentiment should suffice. Since Renan, there 
has been no lack of chatter about this vague religious 
sentiment which " should suffice " to replace the positive 

1 Renan, Feuilles detachees, pp. 17-18. 

* Bruneti^re addressed this reproach to. French literature : " If you 
wish to know why Racine or Moh^re, for example, never attained the 
depth we find in a Shakespeare or a Goethe . . . cherchez la femme, 
and you will find that the defect is due to the influence of the salons, 
and of women " {^volution des genres, 3rd edition, p. 128). 


religions which are coming to grief. F. Buisson informs 
us that " no religious doctrines will survive, but only 
religious emotions, which, far from contradicting either 
science, art, or morality, will steep them in a feeling of 
profound harmony with the life of the Universe/' ^ This, 
unless I am unable to see beyond my nose, is the merest 

" On what will those who come after us live ? " This 
is the great problem posed by Renan and which the middle 
classes will never be able to solve. If any doubt is pos- 
sible on this point, the stupidities uttered by the ofl&cial 
moralists would show that the decadence is henceforth 
fatal. Speculations on the harmony of the Universe (even 
when the Universe is personified) are not the kind of thing 
which will give men that courage which Renan compared 
to that of the soldier in the moment of attack. Sub- 
limity is dead in the middle classes, and they are doomed 
to possess no ethic in the future.^ The winding-up of the 
Dreyfus affair, which the Dreyfusards, to the great indigna- 
tion of Colonel Picquart,' knew how to put to such good 
account, has shown that middle-class sublimity is a Stock 
Exchange asset. All the intellectual and moral defects 
of a class tainted with folly showed themselves in that 

* Questions de morale (lectures given by several professors) in the 
Bibliothdque des sciences sociales, p. 328. 

* I must call attention to the extraordinary prudence shown by 
Ribot in his Psychologie des sentiments in dealing with the evolution of 
morality ; it might have been expected that, on the analogy of the other 
sentiments, he would have come to the conclusion that there was an 
evolution towards a purely intellectual state and to the disappearance 
of its efficacy ; but has not dared to draw this conclusion for morality 
as he did for religion. 

* I refer to an article published in the Gazette de Lausanne, April 2, 
1906, from which the Libre Parole gave a fairly long extract (cf. Joseph 
Reinach, op. cit. vol. vi. p. 36). Several months after I had written 
these lines Picquart was himself the object of exceptionally favourable 
treatment ; he had been conquered by the fatalities of Parisian life, 
which have ruined stronger men than he. 



Before examining what qualities the modern industrial 
system requires of free producers, we must analyse the 
component parts of morality. The philosophers always 
have a certain amount of difficulty in seeing clearly into 
these ethical problems, because they feel the impossibility 
of harmonising the ideas which are current at a given time 
in a class, and yet imagine it to be their duty to reduce 
everything to a unity. To conceal from themselves the 
fimdamental heterogeneity of all this civilised morality, 
they have recourse to a great number of subterfuges, 
sometimes relegating to the rank of exceptions, importa- 
tions, or survivals, everything which embarrasses them — 
sometimes drowning reality in an ocean of vague phrases 
and, most often, employing both methods the better to 
obscure the problem. My view, on the contrary, is that 
the best way of understanding any group of ideas in the 
history of thought is to bring all the contradictions into 
sharp relief I shall adopt this method and take for a 
starting-point the celebrated opposition which Nietzsche 
has established between two groups of moral values, an 
opposition about which much has been written, but which 
has never been properly studied. 

A. We know with what force Nietzsche praised the 
values constructed by the masters, by a superior class of 
warriors who, in their expeditions, enjoying to the full 
freedom from all social constraint, retiun to the simpHcity 
of mind of a wild beast, become once more triimiphant 
monsters who continually bring to mind " the superb 
blond beast, prowling in search of prey and bloodshed," 
in whom " a basis of hidden bestiality needs from time 
to time a purgative." To understand this thesis properly, 
we must not attach too much importance to formulas 
which have at times been intentionally exaggerated, but 
should examine the historical facts ; the author tells us 


that he has in mind " the aristocracy of Rome, Arabia, 
Germany, and Japan, the Homeric heroes, the Scandina- 
vian vikings." 

It is chiefly the Homeric heroes that we must bear in 
mind in order to understand what Nietzsche wished to 
make clear to his contemporaries. We must remember 
that he had been professor of Greek at the University of 
Bale, and that his reputation began with a book devoted 
to the glorification of the Hellenic genius {The Origin of 
Tragedy). He notices that, even at the period of their 
highest culture, the Greeks still preserved a memory of 
their former character of masters. " Our daring," said 
Pericles, " has traced a path over earth and sea, raising 
everywhere imperishable monuments both of good and 
evil." It Was of the heroes of Greek legend and history 
that he was thinking when he speaks of " that audacity 
of noble races, that mad, absurd, and spontaneous 
audacity, their indifference and contempt for all security 
of the body, for Hfe, for comfort." Does not *' the terrible 
gaiety and the profound joy which the heroes tasted in 
destruction, in all the pleasures of victory and of cruelty," 
apply particularly to Achilles ? ^ 

It was certainly to the type of classic Greek that 
Nietzsche alluded when he wrote " the moral judgments 
of the warrior aristocracy are foimded on a powerful 
bodily constitution, a flourishing health without forgetful- 
ness of what was necessary to the maintenance of that over- 
flowing vigour — war, adventure, hunting, dancing, games, 
and physical exercises, in short, everything implied by a 
robust, free, and joyful activity." ^ 

That very ancient type, the Achaean type celebrated 
by Homer, is not simply a memory ; it has several times 
reappeared in the world. " During the Renaissance there 
was a superb reawakening of the classic ideal of the 

» Nietzsche, Genicdogie de la moral, trad, frang., pp. 57-59. 
* Nietzsche, op. cit. p. 43. 


aristocratic valuation of all things ; and after the Revolu- 
tion " the most prodigious and unexpected event came to 
pass, the antique ideal stood in person with unwonted 
splendour before the eyes and consciousness of hmnanity. 
. . . (Then) appeared Napoleon, isolated and belated 
example though he was." ^ 

I beUeve that if the professor of philology had not been 
continually cropping up in Nietzsche he would have per- 
ceived that the master type still exists under our own eyes, 
and that it is this type which, at the present time, has 
created the extraordinary greatness of the United States. 
He would have been struck by the singular analogies 
which exist between the Yankee, ready for any kind of 
enterprise, and the ancient Greek sailor, sometimes a pirate, 
sometimes a colonist or merchant ; above all, he would 
have established a parallel between the ancient heroes and 
the man who sets out on the conquest of the Far West.* 
P. de Rousiers has described the master type admirably. 
" To become and to remain an American, one must look 
upon life as a struggle and not as a pleasure, and seek in it, 
victorious effort, energetic and efficacious action, rather 
than pleasure, leisure embellished by the cultivation of 
the arts, the refinements proper to other societies. Every- 
where — we have seen that what makes the American 
succeed, what constitutes his type — is character, personal 
energy, energy in action, creative energy.'* ^ The pro- 
foimd contempt which the Greek had for the Barbarian 
is matched by that of the Yankee for the foreign worker 
who makes no effort to become truly American. " Many 
of these people would be better if we took them in hand," 

* Nietzsche, op. cit. pp. 78-80. 

* P. de Rousiers observes that everywhere in America approximately 
the same social environment is found, and the same type of men at the 
head of big businesses ; but "it is in the West that the quahties and 
defects of this extraordinary people manifest themselves with the greatest 
energy \ ... it is there that the key to the whole social system is to be found " 
{La Vie amiricaine : ranches, fermes, et usines, pp. 8-9 ; cf. p. 261). 

» De Rousiers, La Vie amiricaine : Education et la sociiti, p. 325. 


an old colonel of the War of Secession said to a French 
traveller, but we are a proud race ; a shopkeeper of 
Pottsville spoke of the Pennsylvania miners as " the 
senseless populace." ^ J. Bourdeau has drawn attention 
to the strange likeness which exists between the ideas of 
A. Carnegie and Roosevelt, and those of Nietzsche, the 
first deploring the waste of money involved in main- 
taining incapables, the second urging the Americans to 
becoming conquerors, a race of prey.^ 

I am not among those who consider Homer's Achaean 
type, the indomitable hero confident in his strength and 
putting himself above rules, as necessarily disappearing in 
the future. If it has often been believed that the t3^e 
was bound to disappear, that was because the Homeric 
values were imagined to be irreconcilable with the other 
values which spring from an entirely different principle ; 
Nietzsche committed this error, which all those who 
believe in the necessity of unity in thought are bound to 
make. It is quite evident that liberty would be seriously 
compromised if men came to regard the Homeric values 
(which are approximate the same as the Cornelian values) 
as suitable only to barbaric peoples. Many moral evils 
would for ever remain unremedied if some hero of revolt 
did not force the people to become aware of their own 
state of mind on the subject. And art, which is after 
all of some value, would lose the finest jewel in its crown. 

The philosophers are little disposed to admit the right 
of art to support the cult of the " will to power " ; it seems 
to them that they ought to give lessons to artists, instead 


1 De Rousiers, La Vie arnericaine : ranches, fermes, et usines, pp. 303- 


* J. Bourdeau, Les Maitres de la pensie contetnporaine, p. 145. The 
author informs us on the other hand that " Jaur6s greatly astonished 
the people of Geneva by revealing to them that the hero of Nietzsche, 
the superman, was nothing else but the proletariat " (p. 139). I have 
not been able to get any information about this lecture of Jaurds ; 
let us hope that he will some day publish it, for our amusement. 


of receiving lessons from them ; they think that only those 
sentiments which have received the stamp of the Uni- 
versities have the right to manifest themselves in poetry. 
Like industry, art has never adapted itself to the demands 
of theorists ; it always upsets their plans of social harmony, 
and humanity has found the freedom of art far too satis- 
factory ever to think of allowing it to be controlled by the 
creators of dull systems of sociology. The Marxists are 
accustomed to seeing the ideologists look at things the 
wrong way round, and so, in contrast to their enemies, 
they should look upon art as a reality which begets ideas 
and not as an application of ideas. 

B. To the values created by the master type, Nietzsche 
opposed the system constructed by sacerdotal castes — 
the ascetic ideal against which he has piled up so much 
invective. The history of these values is much more 
obscure and complicated than that of the preceding ones. 
Nietzsche tries to connect the origin of asceticism with 
psychological reasons which I will not examine here. He 
certainly makes a mistake in attributing a preponderat- 
ing part to the Jews. It is not at all evident that antique 
Judaism had an ascetic character ; doubtless, like the 
other Semitic religions, it attached importance to pilgrim- 
ages, fasts, and prayers recited in ragged clothes. The 
Hebrew poets sang the hope of revenge which existed in the 
heart of the persecuted, but, until the second century of 
our era, the Jews looked to be revenged by arms : ^ on the 
other hand, family life, with them, was too strong for the 
monkish ideal ever to become important. 

Imbued with Christianity as our civilisation may be, 
it is none the less evident that, even in the Middle Ages, 
it submitted to influences foreign to the Church, with 
the result that the old ascetic values were gradually 
transformed. The values to which the contemporary 

* It is always necessary to remember that the resigned Jew of the 
Middle Ages was more like the Christians than his ancestprs. 


world clings most closely, and which it considers the true 
ethical values, are not realised in convents, but in the 
family ; respect for the human person, sexual fidelity 
and devotion to the weak, constitute the elements of 
morality of which all high - minded men are proud ; 
morality, even, is very often made to consist of these alone. 

When we examine in a critical spirit the numerous 
writings which treat, to-day, of marriage, we see that the 
reformers who are in earnest propose to improve family 
relations in such a way as to assure the better realisation 
of these ethical values ; thus, they demand that the 
scandals of conjugal life shall not be exposed in the law 
courts, that unions shall not be maintained when fidelity 
no longer exists, and that the authority of the head of the 
family shall not be diverted from its moral purpose to 
become mere exploitation, etc. 

On the other hand, it is curious to observe to what 
extent the modem Church misunderstands the values 
that classico-Christian civilisation has produced. It sees 
in marriage, above all, a contract directed by financial and 
worldly interests ; it is unwilling to allow of the union 
being dissolved when the household is a hell, and takes 
no account of the duty of devotion.^ The priests are 
wonderfully skilful in procuring rich dowries for im- 
poverished nobles, so much so, indeed, that the Church 
has been accused of considering marriage as a mating of 
noblemen living as " bullies " with middle-class women 
reduced to the role of the women who support such men. 
When it is ^heavily recompensed, the Church finds un- 
expected reasons for divorce, and finds means of annulling 
inconvenient unions for ridiculous motives. Proudhon 
asks ironically : " Is it possible for a responsible man of 
a serious turn of mind and a true Christian to care for 
the love of his wife ? ... If the husband seeking divorce, 
or the wife seeking separation, alleges the refusal of the 

* Epistle to the Ephesians, v. 25-31. 


conjugal fight, then, of course, there is a legitimate reason 
for a rupture, for the service for which the marriage is 
granted has not been carried out." ^ 

Our civilisation having come to consider nearly all 
morality as consisting of values derived from those 
observed in the normally constituted family, two serious 
consequences have been produced : (i) it has been asked 
if, instead of considering the family as an application of 
moral theories, it would not be more exact to say that it 
is the base of these theories ; (2) it seems that the Church, 
having become incompetent on matters connected with 
sexual union, must also be incompetent as regards morality. 
These are precisely the conclusions to which Proudhon 
came. " Sexual duality was created by Nature to be the 
instnmient of Justice. ... To produce Justice is the 
higher aim of the bisexual division ; generation, and what 
follows from it, only figure here as accessory." ^ " Marriage, 
both in principle and in purpose, being the instrument of 
human right, and the living negation of the divine right, 
is thus in formal contradiction with theology and the 
Church." 3 

Love, by the enthusiasm it begets, can produce that 
sublimity without which there would be no effective 
morality. At the end of his book on Justice, Proudhon 
has written pages, which will never be surpassed, on the 
role of women. 

C. Finally we have to examine the values which escape 

* Proudhon is alluding sarcastically to the frequently very comic 
nullifications of marriage, pronounced by the Roman coiu-ts, for 
physiological reasons. Proudhon, op. cit. vol. vi. p. 39. We know that 
the theologians do not Hke curious people to consult ecclesiastical 
writings about conjugal duty and the legitimate method of fulfilling it. 

« Proudhon, he. cit. p. 212. 

* Proudhon, (Euvres, vol. xx. p. 169. This is extracted from the 
memoir he wrote in his own defence, after he had been condemned to 
three years in prison for his book on Justice. It is worth while noting 
that Proudhon was accused of attacking marriage ! This affair is one 
of the shameful acts which dishonoured the Church in the reign of 
Napoleon III. 


Nietzsche's classification an^ which treat of civil relations. 
Originally magic was much mixed up in the evaluation 
of these values ; among the Jews, until recent times, one 
finds a mixture of hygienic principles, rules about sexual 
relationships, precepts about honesty, benevolence and 
national solidarity, the whole wrapped up in magical 
superstitions ; this mixture, which seems strange to the 
philosopher, had the happiest influence on their morality 
so long as they maintained their traditional mode of 
Uving, and one notices among them even now a particular 
exactitude in the carrying out of contracts. 

The ideas held by modern ethical writers are drawn 
mainly from those of Greece in its time of decadence ; 
Aristotle, living in a period of transition, combined ancient 
values with values that, as time went on, were to prevail ; 
war and production had ceased to occupy the attention 
of the most distinguished men of the towns, who sought, 
on the contrary, to secure an easy existence for themselves ; 
the most important thing was the establishment of friendly 
relations between the better educated men of the com- 
mimity, and the fundamental maxim was that of the 
golden mean. The new morality was to be acquired 
principally by means of the habits which the young Greek 
would pick up in mixing with cultivated people. It may 
be said that here we are on the level of an ethic adapted 
to consumers ; it is not astonishing then that Catholic 
theologians still find Aristotle's ethics an excellent one, 
for they themselves take the consumer's point of view. 

In the civilisation of antiquity, the ethics of producers 
could hardly be any other than that of slave-owners, and 
it did not seem worth developing at length, at the time 
when philosophy made an inventory of Greek customs. 
Aristotle said that no far-reaching science was needed to 
employ slaves : " For the master need only know how to 
order what the slaves must know how to execute. So, as soon as 
a man can save himself this trouble, he leaves it in the 


charge of a steward, so as to be himself free for a 
political or philosophical life." ^ A little farther on he 
wrote : '* It is manifest, then, that the master ought to be 
the source of excellence in the slave; but not merely 
because he possesses the art which trains him in his 
duties." 2 This clearly expresses the point of view of the 
urban consumer, who finds it very tiresome to be obUged 
to pay any attention whatever to the conditions of 

As to the slave, he needs very limited virtues. " He 
only needs enough to prevent him neglecting his work 
through intemperance or idleness." He should be treated 
with " more indulgence even than children," although 
certain people consider that slaves are deprived of reason 
and are only fit to receive orders.* 

It is quite easy to see that during a considerable period 
the modems also did not think that there was anything 
more to be said about workers than Aristotle had said ; 
they must be given orders, corrected with gentleness, like 
children, and treated as passive instnunents who do not 
need to think. Revolutionary Syndicalism would be 
impossible if the world of the workers were under the 

* Aristotle, Politics, book L chap. vii. 4-5. 

* Aristotle, op. cit. book i. chap. v. 13, 14, 

* Xenophon, who represents in everything a conception of Greek 
life very much earlier than the time in which he lived, discusses the 
proper method of training an overseer for a farm {Economics, pp. 12-14). 
Marx remarks that Xenophon speaks of the division of labour in the 
workshop, and that appears to him to show a middle-class instinct 
{Capital, vol. i. p. 159, col. i) ; I myself think that it characterises an 
observer who understood the importance of production, an importance 
of which Plato had no comprehension. In the Memorabilia (book ii. p. 7) 
Socrates advises a citizen who had to look after a large family, to set up 
a workshop with the family ; J. Flach supposes that this was something 
new {Legon du ig* avril igoy) : it seems to me to be rather a return to 
more ancient Customs. The historians of philosophy appear to me to 
have been very hostile to Xenophon because he is too much oi an old 
Greek. Plato suits them much better since he is more of an aristocrat, 
and consequently more detached from production. 

* Aristotle, op. cit. book L chap. v. 9 and 11. 


influence of such a morality of the weak. State Socialism, 
on the contrary, could accommodate itself to this morality 
perfectly well, since the latter is based on the idea of a 
society divided into a class of producers and a class of 
thinkers applying results of scientific investigation to the 
work of production. The only difference which would 
exist between this sham Socialism and Capitalism would 
consist in the employment of more ingenious methods of 
procuring discipline in the workshop. 

At the present moment, officials of the Bloc are working 
to create a kind of ethical discipline which will replace 
the hazy religion which G. de Molinari thinks necessary 
to the successful working of capitalism. It is perfectly 
clear, in fact, that religion is daily losing its efficacy with 
the people ; something else must be found, if the in- 
tellectuals are to be provided with the means of living on 
the margin of production. 


The problem that we shall now try to solve is the most 
difficult of all those which a SociaHst writer can touch 
upon. We are about to ask how it is possible to conceive 
the transformation of the men of to-day into the free 
producers of to-morrow working in manufactories where 
there are no masters. The question must be stated 
accurately ; we must state it, not for a world which has 
already arrived at Socialism, but solely for our own time 
and for the preparation of the transition from one world 
to the other ; if we do not limit the question in this way, 
we shall find ourselves sti:a3mig into Utopias. 

Kautsky has given a great deal of attention to the 
question of the conditions immediately following a social 
revolution ; the solution he proposes seems to me quite 
as feeble as that of G. de Molinari. If the syndicates of 
to-day are strong enough to induce the workmen of to-day 



to abandon their workshops and to submit to great 
sacrifices, during the strikes kept up against the capitalists, 
he thinks that they will then doubtless be strong enough 
to bring the workmen back to the workshops, and to 
obtain good and regular work from them, when once they 
see that this work is necessary for the general good.^ 
Kautsky, however, does not seem to feel much confidence 
in the value of his own solution. 

Evidently no comparison can be made between the kind 
of discipline which forces a general stoppage of work on 
the men and that which will induce them to handle 
machinery with greater skill. The error springs from the 
fact that Kautsky is more of a theorist than he is a 
disciple of Marx ; he loves reasoning about abstractions 
and believes that he has brought a question nearer to 
solution when he manages to produce a phrase with a 
scientific appearance ; the underlying reality interests 
him less than its academic presentment. Many others 
have committed the same error, led astray by the different 
meanings of the word discipline, which may be applied both 
to regular conduct founded on the deepest feelings of the 
soul or to a merely external restraint. 

The history of ancient corporations furnishes us with 
no really useful information on this subject ; they do not 
seem to have had any effect whatever in promoting any 
kind of improvement, or invention in technical matters ; 
it would seem rather that they served to protect routine. 
If we examine English Trade Unionism closely, we find 
that it also is strongly imbued with this industrial routine 
springing from the corporative spirit. 

Nor can the examples of democracy throw any light 
on the question. Work conducted democratically would 
be regulated ty resolutions, inspected by police, and 
subject to the sanction of tribunals dealing out rewards 
or imprisonment. The discipline would be an exterior 

* Karl Kautsky, La Rivolution sociale, French translation, p. 153. 


compulsion closely analogous to that which now exists in 
the capitalist workshops ; but it would probably be still 
more arbitrary because the committee would always have 
their eye on the next elections.^ When one thinks of 
the pecuHarities found in judgments in penal cases one 
feels convinced that repression would be exercised in a 
very unsatisfactory way. It seems to be generally agreed 
that light offences cannot be satisfactorily dealt with in 
law courts, when hampered by the rules of a strict legal 
system ; the establishment of administrative councils to 
decide on the future of children has often been suggested ; 
in Belgium mendicity is subject to an administrative 
arbitration which may be compared to the ** police des 
moeurs " ; it is well known that this police, in spite of 
innumerable complaints, continues to be almost supreme 
in France. It is very noticeable that administrative inter- 
vention in the case of important crimes is continually 
increasing. Since the power of mitigating or even of sup- 
pressing penalties is being more and more handed over 
to the heads of penal establishments^ doctors and 
sociologists speak in favour of this system, which tends 
to give the police as important a function as they had 
under the ancien regime. Experience shows that the 
discipline of the capitalist workshops is greatly superior 
to that maintained by the pohce, so that one does not 
see how it would be possible to improve capitalist dis- 
cipline by means of the methods which democracy would 
have at its dispos2d.* 

I think that there is one good point, however, in 

1 The managers of manufactories would constantly be busying them- 
selves with how to ensure the success of the government party at the 
next election. They would be very indulgent to workmen who were 
influential speakers, and very hard on men suspected of lack of 
electoral zeal. 

» We might ask if the ideal of the relatively honest and enlightened 
democrats is not at the present moment the discipline of the capitalist 
workshop. The increase of the power given to the mayors and State 
governors in America seems to me to be a sign of this tendency. 


Kautsky's hypothesis ; he seems to have been aware 
that the motive force of the revolutionary movement 
must also be the motive force of the ethic of the producers ; 
that is a view quite in conformity with Marxist principles, 
but the idea must be applied in quite a different way from 
that in which he applied it. It must not be thought that 
the action of the syndicates on work is direct, as he sup- 
poses ; this influence of the syndicates on labour should 
result from complex and sometimes distant causes, acting 
on the general character of the workers rather than from 
a qu£Lsi-mihtary organisation. This is what I try to show 
by analysing some of the quaUties of the best workmen. 

A satisfactory result can be arrived at, by starting 
from the curious analogies which exist between the most 
remarkable qualities of the soldiers who took part in the 
wars of Liberty, the qualities which engendered the propa- 
ganda in favour of the general strike, ajid those that will 
be required of a free worker in a highly progressive state 
of society. I beUeve that these analogies constitute a 
new (and perhaps decisive) proof, in favour of revolutionary 

In the wars of Liberty each soldier considered himself 
as an individual having something of importance to do in 
the battle, instead of looking upon himself as simply one 
part of the military mechanism committed to the supreme 
direction of a leader. In the hterature of those times 
one is struck by the frequency with which the free men 
of the republican armies are contrasted with the auto- 
matons of the royal armies ; this was no mere figure of 
rhetoric employed by the French writers ; I have con- 
vinced myself as a result of a thorough first-hand study 
of one of the wars of that time, that these terms corre- 
sponded perfectly to the actual feelings of the soldiers. 

Battles under these conditions could, then, no longer 
be hkened to ^ames of chess in which each man is com- 
parable to a pawn ; they became collections of heroic 


exploits accomplished by individuals under the influence 
of an extraordinary enthusiasm. Revolutionary litera- 
ture is not entirely false, when it reports so many grandilo- 
quent phrases said to have been uttered by the combatants; 
doubtless none of these phrases were spoken by the people 
to whom they are attributed, their form is due to men 
of letters used to the composition of classical declamation ; 
but the basis is real in this sense, that we have, thanks 
to these lies of revolutionary rhetoric, a perfectly exact 
representation of the aspect under which the combatants 
looked on war, a true expression of the sentiments aroused 
by it, and the actual accent of the tndy Homeric conflicts 
which took place at that time. I am certain that none 
of the actors in these dramas ever protested against the 
words attributed to them ; this was no doubt because 
each found beneath these fantastic phrases, a true ex- 
pression of his own deepest feelings.^ 

Until the moment when Napoleon appeared the war had 
none of the scientific character which the later theoretists 
of strategy have sometimes thought it incmnbent on 
them to attribute to it. Misled by the analogies they 
discovered between the triumphs of the revolutionary 
armies and those of the Napoleonic armies, historians 
imagined that generals anterior to Napoleon had made 
great plans of campaign ; such plans never existed, or at 
any rate had very little influence on the course of opera- 
tions. The best officers of that time were fully aware 
that their talent consisted in furnishing their troops with 
the suitable opportunities of exhibiting their ardour ; and 
victory was assured each time that the soldiers could 
give free scope to all their enthusiasm, unfettered by bad 
commissariat, or by the stupidity of representatives of the 
people who looked upon themselves as strategists. On 

^ This history has also been burdened by a great number of adven- 
tures, which have been fabricated by imitating real ones, and which are 
very like those which later on The Three Musketeers rendered popular. 


the battle-field the leaders gave an example of daring 
courage and were merely the first combatants, like true 
Homeric kings ; it is this which explains the enormous 
prestige with the young troops, immediately gained by 
so many of the non-commissioned officers of the ancien 
regime, who were borne to the highest rank by the 
unanimous acclamations of the soldiers at the outset of 
the war. 

' If we wished to find, in these first armies, what it was 
that took the place of the later idea of discipline, we might 
say that the soldier was convinced that the slightest 
failure of the most insignificant private might com- 
promise the success of the whole and the life of all his 
comrades, and that the soldier acted accordingly. This 
presupposes that no account is taken of the relative values 
of the different factors that go to make up a victory, so 
that all things are considered from a qualitative and 
individualistic point of view. One is, in fact, extremely 
struck by the individualistic characters which are met 
with in these armies, and by the fact that nothing is to 
be found in them which at all resembles the obedience 
spoken of by our contemporary authors. There is some 
truth then in the statement that the incredible French 
victories were due to intelligent bayonets. 

The same spirit is found in the working-class groups 
who are eager for the general strike ; these groups, in 
fact, picture the Revolution as an immense uprising which 
yet may be called individualistic ; each working with 
the greatest possible zeal, each acting on his own account, 
and not troubling himself much to subordinate his conduct 
to a great and scientifically combined plan. This character 
of the proletarian general strike has often been pointed 
out, and it has the effect of frightening the greedy 
politicians, who understand perfectly well that a Revolu- 
tion conducted in this way would do away with all their 
chances of seizing the Government. 


Jaur^s, whom nobody would dream of classing with 
any but the most circumspect of men, has clearly recog- 
nised the danger which threatens him ; he accuses the 
upholders of the general strike of considering only one 
aspect of social life and thus going against the Revolution. ^ 
This rigmarole should be translated thus : the revolu- 
tionary Syndicalists desire to exalt the individuality of 
the life of the producer ; they thus run counter to the 
interests of the politicians who want to direct the Revolu- 
tion in such a way as to transmit power to a new minority ; 
they thus undermine the foundations of the State. We 
entirely agree with all this ; it is precisely this character- 
istic which so terrifies the Parliamentary Socialists, the 
financiers, and the ideologists, which gives such extra- 
ordinary moral value to the notion of the general strike. 

The upholders of the general strike are accused of 
anarchical tendencies ; and as a matter of fact, it has been 
observed during the last few years that anarchists have 
entered the syndicates in great numbers, and have done 
a great deal to develop tendencies favourable to the 
general strike. 

This movement becomes understandable when we 
bear the preceding explanations in mind ; because the 
general strike, just like the wars of Liberty, is a most 
striking manifestation of individualistic force in the 
revolted masses. It seems to me, moreover, that the 
official Socialists would do well not to insist too much on 
this point ; they would thus avoid some reflections which 
are not altogether to their advantage. We might, in fact, 
be led to ask if our official Socialists, with their passion 
for discipline, and their infinite confidence in the genius 
of their leaders, are not the authentic inheritors of the 
traditions of the royal armies, while the anarchists and 
the upholders of the general strike represent at the present 
time the spirit of the revolutionary warriors who, against 

* Jaur^s, Etudes socicUistes, pp. 117-118. 


all the rules of the art of war, so thoroughly thrashed the 
fine armies of the coalition. I can understand why the 
Socialists approved, controlled, and duly patented by the 
administrators of Humanite, have not much sympathy 
for the heroes of Fleurus,^ who were very badly dressed, 
and would have cut a sorry figure in the drawing-rooms 
of the great financiers ; but everybody does not adapt 
his convictions to suit the tastes of M. Jaurds's share- 

I want now to point out some analogies which show 
how revolutionary syndicalism is the greatest educative 
force that contemporary society has at its disposal for 
the preparation of the system of production, which the 
workmen will adopt, in a society organised in accordance 
with the new conceptions. 

A. The free producer in a progressive and inventive 
workshop must never evaluate his own efforts by any 
external standing ; he ought to consider the models given 
him as inferior, and desire to surpass everything that has 
been done before. Constant improvement in quality 
and quantity will be thus assured to production ; the 
idea of continual progress will be realised in a workshop 
of this kind. 

Early socialists had had an intuition of this law, when 
they demanded that each should produce according to 
his faculties ; but they did not know how to explain this 
principle, which in their Utopias seemed made for a 
convent or for a family rather than for modem industrial 
Hfe. Sometimes, however, they pictiued their workers 
as possessed by an enthusiasm similar to that which we 
find in the Uves of certain great artists ; this last point 

* [The battle of Fleunis, won in 1794 by General Jourdain, was one of 
the first decisive triumphs of the revolutionary army. The Chant du 
Dipart was written by J. M. Ch^nier shortly before this battle. — Trans.] 


of view is by no means negligible, although the early 
Socialists hardly understood the value of the comparison. 

Whenever we consider questions relative to industrial 
progress, we are led to consider art as an anticipation of the 
highest and technically most perfect forms of production, 
although the artist, with his caprices, often seems to be at 
the antipodes of the modem worker.^ This analogy is 
justified by the fact that the artist dislikes reproducing 
accepted types; the inexhaustibly inventive turn of 
his mind distinguishes him from the ordinary artisan, 
who is mainly successful in the unending reproduction 
of models which are not his own. The inventor is an 
artist who wears himself out in pursuing the realisation 
of ends which practical people generally declare absurd ; 
and who, if he has made any important discovery is often 
supposed to be mad ; practical people thus resemble 
artisans. One could cite in every industry important 
improvements which originated in small changes made 
by workmen endowed with the artist's taste for innovation. 

This state of mind is, moreover, exactly that which was 
found in the first armies which carried on the wars of 
Liberty and that possessed by the propagandists of the 
general strike. This passionate individualism is entirely 
wanting in the working classes who have been educated 
by politicians ; all they are fit for is to change their 
masters. These had shepherds 2 sincerely hope that it 

1 When we speak of the educative value of art, we often forget that 
the habits of life of the modem artist, founded on an imitation of those 
of a jovial aristocracy, are in no way necessary, and are derived from 
a tradition which has been fatal to many fine talents. Lafargue appears 
to believe that the Parisian jeweller might find it necessary to dress 
elegantly, to ea{ oysters, and run after women in order to be able to 
keep up the artistic quality of his work {i.e. in order to keep his mind 
active ; the artistic quality of his work, destroyed by the wear of daily 
life in the workshop, will be reconstituted by the gay life he leads outside) 
{Journal des iconomistes, September 1884, p. 386). He gives no reasons 
to support this paradox ; we might moreover point out that the mentality 
of Marx's son-in-law is always obsessed by aristocratic prejudices. 

* [This is an allusion to a play by Octave Mirbeau with that title. — 


will be so ; and the Stock Exchange people would not 
provide them with money, were they not convinced that 
Parliamentary Socialism is quite compatible with financial 

B. Modern industry is characterised by an ever- 
growing care for exactitude ; as tools get more scientific 
it is expected that the product shall have fewer hidden 
faults, and that in use its quality shall be as good as its 

If Germany has not yet taken the place in the economic 
world which the mineral riches of its soil, the energy of 
its manufacturers and the science of its technicians ought 
to give it, it is because its manufacturers for a long time 
thought it clever to flood the markets with trash ; although 
the quality of German manufactures has much improved 
during the last few years, it is not yet held in any very 
great esteem. 

Here again it is possible to draw a comparison between 
industry in a high state of perfection and art. There 
have been periods in which the public appreciated above 
all the technical tricks by which the artist created an 
illusion of reality ; but these tricks have never been 
accepted in the great schools, and they are universally 
condemned by the authors who are accepted as authorities 
in matters of art.^ 

This honesty which now seems to us to-day as necessary 
in industry as in art, was hardly suspected by the Utopists; ^ 
Fourier, at the beginning of the new era, believed that 
fraud in the quality of merchandise was characteristic 

^ See the chapter in Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture entitled 
" Lamp of Truth." 

* It must not be forgotten that there are two ways of discussing art ; 
Nietzsche attacks Kant for having " like all the philosophers meditated 
on art and the beautiful as a spectator instead of looking at the esthetic 
problem from the point of view of the artist, the creator " {op. cit. 
p. 17S). In the time of the Utopists, esthetics was merely the babbling 
of amateurs, who were delighted with the cleverness with which the 
artist had been able to deceive the public. 


of the relations between civilised people ; he turned his 
back on progress and showed himself incapable of under- 
standing the world which was being formed about him ; 
like nearly all professional prophets this sham seer con- 
fused the future with the past. Marx, on the contrary, said 
that " deception in merchandise in the capitalist system 
of production is unjust," because it no longer corresponds 
with the modem system of business.^ 

The soldier of the wars of Liberty attached an almost 
superstitious importance to the carrying out of the smallest 
order. As a result of this he felt no pity for the generals 
or officers whom he saw guillotined after a defeat on the 
charge of dereliction of duty ; he did not look at these 
events as the historians of to-day do ; he had no means 
of knowing whether the condemned had really committed 
treason or not ; in his eyes failure could only be explained 
by some grave error on the part of his leaders. The high 
sense of responsibility felt by the soldier about his own 
duties, and the extreme thoroughness with which he 
carried out the most insignificant order, made him approve 
of rigorous measures taken against men who in his eyes 
had brought about the defeat of the army and caused it to 
lose the fruit of so much heroism. 

It is not difficult to see that the same spirit is met with 
in strikes ; the beaten workmen are convinced that their 
failure is due to the base conduct of a few comrades who 
have not done all that might have been expected of them ; 
numerous accusations of treason are brought forward ; 
for the beaten masses, treason alone can explain the defeat 
of heroic troops ; the sentiment, felt by all, of the thorough- 
ness that must be brought to the accomplishment of their 
duties, will therefore be accompanied by many acts of 
violence. I dp not think that the authors who have written 
on the events which follow strikes, have sufficiently 
reflected on this analogy between strikes and the wars of 

1 Marx, Capital, French translation, vol. iii., first part, p. 375. 


Liberty, and, consequently, between these acts of violence 
and the executions of generals accused of treason.^ 

C. There would never have been great acts of heroism 
in war, if each soldier, while acting like a hero, yet at the 
same time claimed to receive a reward proportionate to 
his deserts. When a colmnn is sent to an assault, the 
men at the head know they are sent to their death, and 
that the glory of victory will be for those who passing 
over their dead bodies enter the enemy's position. How- 
ever, they do not reflect on this injustice, but march 

The value of any army where the need of rewards 
makes itself actively felt, may be said to be on the decline. 
Officers who had served in the campaigns of the Revolution 
and of the Empire, but who had served under the direct 
orders of Napoleon only in the last years of their career, 
were amazed to see the fuss made about feats of arms 
which in the time of their youth would have passed un- 
noticed : "I have been overwhelmed with praise/' said 
General Duhesne, " for things which would not have been 
noticed in the army of Sambre-et-Meuse." ^ This theatri- 
cality was carried by Murat to a grotesque degree, and 
historians have not taken enough notice of the responsi- 
bility of Napoleon for this degeneracy of the true warlike 
spirit. The extraordinary enthusiasm which had been 
the cause of so many prodigies of valour on the part of 
the men of 1794 was unknown to him ; he believed that 
it was his function to measure all capacities, and to give 

* p. Bureau has devoted a chapter of his book on the Contrat de 
Travail to an explanation of the reasons which justify boycotting of 
workmen who do not join their comrades in strikes ; he thinks that 
these people merit their fate because they are notoriously inferior both 
in courage and as workmen. This seems to me very inadequate as 
an account of the reasons which, in the eyes of the working classes 
themselves, explain these acts of violence. The author takes up a 
much too intellectualist point of view. 

* Lafaille, Mhnoires sur les campagnes de Catalogne de j8o8 d 18/4, 
p. 336. 


to each a reward exactly proportionate to what he had 
accomplished ; this was the Saint -Simonian principle 
already coming into practice, and every officer was 
encouraged to bring himself forward. Charlatanism ^ ex- 
hausted the moral forces of the nation whilst its material 
forces were still very considerable. Napoleon formed 
very few distinguished general officers and carried on the 
war principally with those left him by the Revolution ; 
this impotence is the most absolute condemnation of the 

The scarcity of the information which we possess about 
the great Gothic artists has often been pointed out. 
Among the stone-carvers who sculptured the statues in 
the cathedrals there were men of great talent who seem 
always to have remained anonymous ; nevertheless they 
produced masterpieces. VioUet-le-Duc was surprised 
that the archives of Notre Dame had preserved for us no 
detailed information about the building of this gigantic 
monument and that, as a rule, the documents of the 
Middle Ages say very little about the architects ; he adds 
that " genius can develop itself in obscurity, and that it 
is its very nature to seek silence and obscurity." ^ We 

^ The charlatanism of the followers of Saint Simon was as disgusting 
as that of Murat ; moreover, the history of this school is unintelligible 
if we do not compare it with its Napoleonic models. 

* General Donop strongly insists on the incapacity of Napoleon's 
lieutenants who passively obeyed instructions that they never tried to 
understand, and the fulfilment of which was minutely overlooked by 
their master {op. cit. pp. 22-29 and 32-34). Napoleon's armies were 
valued in proportion to the exactitude with which they carried out the 
orders of their master ; initiative being little valued, it was possible 
to estimate the conduct of the generals like the ability of a good pupil 
who has learnt his lessons w^ll ; the Emperor gave pecuniary rewards 
to his lieutenants, proportionate to the measure of merit he recognised 
in them. 

' Viollet-le-Duc, Dictionnaite raisonni de V architecture fratifaise, 
vol. iv. pp. 42-43. This does not contradict what we read in the 
article " Architect." From that we learn that the builders often inscribed 
their names in the cathedrals (vol. i. pp. 1 09-1 11) ; from that it has 
been concluded that these works were not anonymous (Br6hier, Les 


might even go farther and question whether their con- 
temporaries suspected that these artists of genius had 
raised edifices of unperishable glory ; it seems very 
probable to me that the cathedrals were only admired 
by the artists. 

This striving towards perfection which manifests itself, 
in spite of the absence of any personal, immediate, and 
proportional reward, constitutes the secret virtue which 
assures the continued progress of the world. What would 
become of modern industry if inventors could only be 
found for those things which would procure them an 
almost certain remuneration ? The calling of an inventor is 
much the most miserable of all, and yet there is no lack of 
inventors. How often in workshops have little modifica- 
tions introduced by ingenious artisans into their work, 
become by accumulation fundamental improvements, 
without the innovators ever getting any permanent or 
appreciable benefit from their ingenuity ! And has not 
even simple piece-work brought about a gradual but 
uninterrupted progress in the processes of production, a 
progress which, after having temporarily improved the 
position of a few workers and especially that of their 
employers, has proved finally of benefit chiefly to the 
consumer ? 

Renan asked what was it that moved the heroes of 
great wars. " The soldier of Napoleon was well aware 
that he would always be a poor man, but he felt that the 
epic in which he was taking part would be eternal, that he 
would live in the glory of France. ' ' The Greeks had fought 
for glory ; the Russians and the Turks seek death because 
they expect a chimerical paradise. "A soldier is not made 
by promises of temporal rewards. He must have immor- 

Eglises gothiques, p. 17), but what meaning had these inscriptions for 
the people of the town ? They could only be of interest to artists who 
came later on to work in the same edifice and who were familiar with 
the traditions of the schools. 


tality. In default of paradise, there is glory, which is itself 
a kind of immortality/' ^ 

Economic progress goes far beyond the individual life, 
and profits future generations more than those who create 
it ; but does it give glory ? Is there an economic epic 
capable of stimulating the enthusiasm of the workers. 
The inspiration of immortality which Renan considered so 
powerful is obviously without efficacy here, because artists 
have never produced masterpieces under the influence of 
the idea that their work would procure them a place in 
paradise (as Turks seek death that they may enjoy the 
happiness promised by Mahomet). The workmen are not 
entirely wrong when they look on reUgion as a middle- 
class luxury, since, as a matter of fact, the emotions it 
calls up are not those which inspire workmen with the 
desire to perfect machinery, or which create methods of 
accelerating labour. 

The question must be stated otherwise than Renan 
put it ; do there exist among the workmen forces capable 
of producing enthusiasm equivalent to those of which 
Renan speaks, forces which could combine with the ethics 
of good work, so that in our days, which seem to many 
people to presage the darkest future, this ethic may acquire 
all the authority necessary to lead society along the path 
of economic progress. 

We must be careful that the keen sentiment which we 
have of the necessity of such a morality, and our ardent 
desire to see it realised does not induce us to mistake 
phantoms for forces capable of moving the world. The 
abimdant " idyllic ** literature of the professors of rhetoric 
is evidently mere chatter. Equally vain are the attempts 
made by so many scholars to find institutions in the 
past, an imitation of which might serve as a means of 

* Renan, Histoire du peupie d' Israel, vol. iv. p. 191. Renan seems 
to me to have identified too readily glory and immortality ; he has 
fallen a victim to a figure of speech. 


disciplining their contemporaries ; imitation has never 
produced much good and often bred much sorrow ; how 
absurd the idea is then of borrowing from some dead 
and gone social structure, a suitable means of controlling 
a system of production, whose principal characteristic is 
that every day it must become more and more opposed 
to all preceding economic systems. Is there then nothing 
to hope for ? 

Morahty is not doomed to perish because the motive 
forces behind it will change ; it is not destined to become 
a mere collection of precepts as long as it can still vivify 
itself by an alliance with an enthusiasm capable of conquer- 
ing all the obstacles, prejudices, and the need of immediate 
enjoyment, which oppose its progress. But it is certain 
that this sovereign force will not be found along the paths 
which contemporary philosophers', the experts of social 
science, and the inventors of far-reaching reforms would 
make us go. There is only one force which can produce 
to-day that enthusiasm without whose co-operation no 
morality is possible, and that is the force resulting from 
the propaganda in favour of a general strike. The pre- 
ceding explanations have shown that the idea of the 
general strike (constantly rejuvenated by the feehngs 
roused by proletarian violence) produces an entirely epic 
state of mind, and at the same time bends all the energies 
of the mind to that condition necessary to the realisation 
of a workshop carried on by free men, eagerly seeking 
the betterment of the industry ; we have thus recog- 
nised that there are great resemblances between the 
sentiments aroused by the idea of the general strike and 
those which are necessary to bring about a continued 
progress in methods of production. We have then the 
right to maintain that the modem world possesses that 
prime mover which is necessary to the creation of the 
ethics of the producers. 

I stop here, because it seems to me that I have accom- 


plished the task which I imposed upon myself ; I have, 
in fact, established that proletarian violence has an en- 
tirely different significance from that attributed to it by 
superficial scholars and by politicians. In the total ruin 
of institutions and of morals there remains something 
which is powerful, new, and intact, and it is that which 
constitutes, properly speaking, the soul of the revolutionary 
proletariat. Nor will this be swept away in the general 
decadence of moral values, if the workers have enough 
energy to bar the road to the middle-class corrupters, 
answering their advances with the plainest brutality. 

I beUeve that I have brought an important contribu- 
tion to discussions on Socialism ; these discussions must 
henceforth deal exclusively with the conditions which 
allow the development of specifically proletarian forces, 
that is to say, with violence enlightened by the idea of the 
general strike. All the old abstract dissertations on the 
Socialist rSgime of the future become useless ; we pass to 
the domain of real history, to the interpretation of facts — 
to the ethical evaluations of the revolutionary movement. 

The bond which I pointed out in the beginning of 
this inquiry between Socialism and proletarian violence 
appears to us now in all its strength. It is to violence 
that Socialism owes those high ethical values by means 
of which it brings salvation to the modem world. 




Men who make revolutionary speeches to the people are 
bound to set before themselves a high standard of sincerity, 
because the workers imderstand their words in their exact 
and Uteral sense, and never indulge in any symbolic inter- 
pretation. When in 1905 I ventured to write in some detail 
on proletarian violence I understood perfectly the grave 
responsibility I asstmied in trying to show the historic bearing 
of actions which our ParUamentary Socialists try to dis- 
simulate, with so much skill. To-day I do not hesitate to 
assert that Socialism could not continue to exist without an 
apology for violence. 

It is in strikes that the proletariat asserts its existence. 
I cannot agree with the view which sees in strikes merely 
something analogous to the temporary rupture of commercial 
relations which is brought about when a grocer and the whole- 
sale dealer from whom he buys his dried plums cannot agree 
about the price. The strike is a phenomenon of war. It is 
thus a serious misrepresentation to say that violence is an 
accident doomed to disappear from the strikes of the future. 

The social revolution is an extension of that ware in which 
each great strike is an episode ; this is the reason why Syndi- 
caUsts speak of that revolution in the language of strikes ; 
for them Socialism is reduced to the conception, the expecta- 
tion of, and the preparation for the general strike, which, hke 
he Napoleonic battle, is to completely annihilate a con- 
demned regime. 

Such a conception allows none of those subtle exegeses 
in which Jaur^s excels. It is a question here of an over- 
throw in the course of which both employers and the State 
would be set aside by the organised producers. Our 



Intellectuals, who hope to obtain the highest places from 
democracy, would be sent back to their literature; the 
Parliamentary Socialists, who find in the organisations created 
by the middle classes means of exercising a certain amount of 
power, would bec(Jme useless. 

The analogy which exists between strikes accompanied by 
violence and war is prolific of consequences. No one doubts 
(except d'Estournelles de Constant) that it was war that 
provided the republics of antiquity with the ideas which form 
the ornament of our modem culture. The social war, for 
which the proletariat ceaselessly prepares itself in the syndi- 
cates, may engender the elements of a new civilisation suited 
to a people of producers. I continually call the attention of 
my young friends to the problems presented by Socialism 
considered from the point of view of a civiUsation of pro- 
ducers ; I assert that to-day a philosophy is being elaborated 
according to this plan, whose possibiUty even was hardly 
suspected a few years ago ; this philosophy is closely bound 
up with the apology for violence. 

I have never had that admiration for creative hatred which 
Jaur^s has devoted to it ; I do not feel the same indulgence 
towards the guillotiners as he does ; I have a horror of any 
measure which strikes the vanquished under a judicial disguise. 
War, carried on in broad daylight, without hypocritical 
attenuation, for the purpose of ruining an irreconcilable 
enemy, excludes all the abominations which dishonoured 
the middle-class revolution of the eighteenth century. The 
apology for violence in this case is particularly easy. 

It would serve no purpose to explain to the poor that they 
ought not to feel sentiments of jealousy and vengeance against 
their masters ; these feelings are too powerful to be suppressed 
by exhortations ; it is on the widespread prevalence of these 
feelings thai democracy chiefly founds its strength. Social 
war, by making an appeal to the honour which develops so 
naturally in all organised armies, can eliminate those evil 
feelings against which morality would remain powerless. If 
this were the only reason we had for attributing a high civihs- 
ing value to revolutionary SyndicaUsm, this reason alone 
would, it seems to me, be decisive in favour of the apologists 
for violence. 

The conception of the general strike, engendered by the 
practice of violent strikes, admits the conception of an irre- 
vocable overthrow. There is something terrifying in this 


which will appear more and more terrifying as violence takes 
a greater place in the mind of the proletariat. But, in under- 
taking a serious, formidable, and sublime work, Socialists 
raise themselves above our frivolous society and make them- 
selves worthy of pointing out new roads to the world. 

Parhamentary Socialists may be compared to the officials 
whom Napoleon made into a nobility and who laboured to 
strengthen the State bequeathed by the Ancien Regime. 
Revolutionary Syndicalism corresponds well enough to the 
Napoleonic armies whose soldiers accomplished such heroic 
acts, knowing all the time that they would remain poor. 
What remains of the Empire ? Nothing but the epic of the 
Grande Arm^e. What will remain of the present Socialist 
movement will be the epic of the strikes. 

Matin, May i8, 1908. 



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